EU members strike deal to reduce gas use as Russia pummels Ukraine targets

European Union member states have reached agreement on how to cut their consumption of gas by 15 percent and reduce their dependence on Russian supplies.

Tuesday's breakthrough came hours after Ukraine accused Russian forces of launching multiple missile strikes at targets on the Black Sea coast near the southern port city of Odessa and in Mykolaiv.

In Brussels, EU ministers debated how to reduce gas consumption this winter, a response to what Russia's critics have called Moscow's manipulation of supplies as an economic weapon.

"In an effort to increase EU security of energy supply, member states today reached a political agreement on a voluntary reduction of natural gas demand by 15 percent this winter," the council of ministers said.

"The purpose of the gas demand reduction is to make savings ahead of winter in order to prepare for possible disruptions of gas supplies from Russia that is continuously using energy supplies as a weapon."

Luxembourg's energy minister Claude Turmes tweeted that Hungary was the only member state in the 27-member bloc to vote against the plan.

Earlier, Czech industry minister Jozef Sikela, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said Russian President Vladimir Putin was behind state-run Gazprom's plan to cut gas deliveries to Europe.

Russia's Gazprom said it was cutting daily gas deliveries to Europe via the Nord Stream pipeline to 33 million cubic metres a day — about 20 percent of the pipeline's capacity — from Wednesday.

In February, Russia attacked its neighbour Ukraine. In response, EU members have imposed an escalating series of economic sanctions packages on Moscow — only to find their own energy supplies under threat.

New Russian air strikes

On the battlefield, Russia targeted Ukraine’s Black Sea regions of Odessa and Mykolaiv with air strikes, hitting private buildings and port infrastructure along the country's southern coast, the Ukrainian military said.

The attacks come days after Russian strikes hit the port of Odessa, in the aftermath of a Türkiye-brokered deal to resume exports of grain from Ukraine that have been disrupted by Moscow's military offensive.

"A massive missile attack, with the use of aircraft, was launched from the Black Sea on the south of Ukraine," the country's southern military command said on Facebook.

Rescuers were working on the ground near Odessa where "residential buildings" near the coast were hit in the strikes, the military said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy published a video showing debris scattered around heavily damaged houses in Zatoka, a popular resort village to the west of Odessa. "No military bases, no troops. Russian terrorists just wanted to shoot," he said in an Instagram post.

The military said that "port infrastructure" was targeted in the neighbouring Mykolaiv region, which was also hit by S-300 missile systems deployed in the Russia-controlled Kherson region.

Authorities said a "critical infrastructure object", a motor vehicle business and the city's boiler facility had been damaged.

Source: Agencies