Czech bid to strip Vladimir Putin of key European energy asset

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The intervention is important because his company Energeticky a prumyslovy holding (EPH) is the largest energy company in Central Europe.

It comes after UK gas prices hit a record high of more than 500p per therm – more than ten times the long-term average – and Liz Truss, the UK Foreign Secretary, said Western leaders had agreed to wean their economies off Russian fossils. fuels following the invasion of Ukraine.

Opponents of Putin’s regime have long argued that Europe is too dependent on Russian gas, which accounts for 40% of the continent’s imports.

The war in Ukraine has sparked a race by Russian-linked businessmen to distance themselves from the regime. Boris Johnson’s spokesman said companies ‘should think very carefully if they continue to do anything that supports Putin’s regime’.

Mr Komarek, whose net worth is estimated at $7.8billion (£5.9billion), built his oil and gas business empire in the 1990s after the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia which led to the fall of the communist regime. He has risen to prominence in Britain over the past year after emerging as a candidate to run the UK’s National Lottery.

Mr. Komarek, who had longstanding ties to Russia through a series of joint venture interests with Gazprom, has unloaded joint venture interests in Russia in recent years. Last week, the Czech billionaire published an open letter in which he said he was “horrified by Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine”.

He said: “This is a senseless act of aggression that must be condemned in the strongest possible terms, and we are doing everything we can to support the brave Ukrainians affected by the barbarism of Vladimir Putin’s regime.”

Gazprom has a 50% stake in the Moravia gas storage facility, which it owns as part of a joint venture with Mr. Komarek’s investment group.

It is understood Mr Komarek is in talks with officials in Czech President Milos Zeman’s administration over the takeover plans. Insiders of the talks said new laws would have to be passed in the Czech Republic for the plant to be seized.

The power struggle comes as Mr Kretinsky’s EPH company began pumping Russian gas to Ukraine via Eustream, a 2,270km pipeline that runs through central Slovakia. The company does not buy Russian gas, but has a long-term gas transport agreement with the country.

EPH officials are bracing for EU sanctions that would force it to shut down the pipeline.

The European Commission plans to set a target of 80% storage capacity within the block to be filled by September 30, up from the current level of 29%, so that it is better able to withstand the winter. next without depending on Russia.

EU countries may also have to extend the life of coal-fired power plants. Mr. Kretinsky is poised to play a key role. EPH’s assets include the Fiume Santo coal-fired power station in Sassari, Italy, as well as the Buschhaus power station in Germany.

Elon Musk, the American billionaire founder of electric car maker Tesla, gave his support yesterday to the West to restart its production of fossil fuels. He said: “I hate to say it, but we need to increase oil and gas production immediately. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.”

In the UK, Whitehall officials are preparing the ground for discussions with Berlin and other European importers on a significant increase in deliveries of liquefied natural gas to ports on the continent, in a bid to meet winter demand. next if supplies from Russia are cut off, the Telegraph reported last week.

A spokesperson for Mr. Komarek said: “Mr. Komarek chose to divest from Russia a few years ago.
“Since 2014, Mr. Komarek has been investing in Ukraine, not Russia. His feelings are firm and sincere, not least because he grew up under Soviet occupation.

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