Home Society Starmer government rejects calls to ditch deal with firm linked to Russian gas
Starmer government rejects calls to ditch deal with firm linked to Russian gas

Starmer government rejects calls to ditch deal with firm linked to Russian gas

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Starmer government rejects calls to ditch deal with firm linked to Russian gas

LONDON — Keir Starmer’s new Labour government has dismissed calls from Ukrainian campaigners to ditch a controversial public sector gas contract with a French fossil fuel giant that still trades in Russian gas. 

Campaign group Razom We Stand this week said the deal with a subsidiary of TotalEnergies — first reported by POLITICO — was a “glaring problem in the U.K.’s stance on Ukraine.”

However, the new government said the award of the contract had “followed all U.K. sanctions requirements.”  

The contract could eventually be worth up to £8 billion to the company. It was signed last year under Rishi Sunak’s Conservative government and made TotalEnergies Gas & Power — a U.K. subsidiary of the French firm — the government’s preferred supplier of gas to public sector buildings including NHS hospitals, schools, and government buildings.

NHS England last year “strongly” recommended that hospital trusts sign up to the deal, which is intended to centralize procurement and lower energy bills for the public sector.

The Ministry of Defence is another of the major buyers, sealing a £100 million “call-off” from the contract earlier this year. New Defense Secretary John Healey visited Ukraine immediately after taking office. On Monday, the country came under a fierce Russian missile bombardment, which killed at least 20 people, according to officials.

Under Sunak, the U.K. government banned direct imports of Russian gas after Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Approached by POLITICO earlier this year, a spokesperson said that gas supplied under the contract by TotalEnergies Gas & Power would be purchased “from the U.K. domestic open market, where the presence of Russian gas is extremely unlikely.”

However, the parent firm, TotalEnergies, remains a major importer of Russian gas into the EU, via the lucrative trade in ship-borne liquefied natural gas (LNG.)

Keir Starmer spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy the day after the U.K. election to reiterate the U.K.’s ongoing support for Ukraine.

Svitlana Romanko, director of Razom We Stand, which campaigns against Russian fossil fuels and was recently cited by the White House for its work, said that “billions of pounds of British taxpayers’ money will flow to a company trading in Russian gas, undermining the U.K.’s stance against Russian aggression.”

“This contract must be canceled immediately to ensure the U.K. is not sending blood money to Putin’s regime,” Romanko added. “The new U.K. government should prioritize global peace and the lives of Ukraine’s people over cheap energy from a company that has contributed financially to the brutal war against us here in Ukraine.

“Anything less is a betrayal of trust of the people of Ukraine and the values the U.K. claims to stand for.”

UK election results

365 seats
CON

203 seats
LAB

48 seats
SNP

LD

DUP

SF

PC

SDLP

APNI

GREEN


Conservative Party

Labour Party

Scottish National Party

Liberal Democrats

Democratic Unionist Party

Sinn Féin

Plaid Cymru

Social Democratic and Labour Party

Alliance Party of Northern Ireland

Green Party

650 / 650 seats assigned
Turnout: 67.3%

412 seats
LAB

121 seats
CON

72 seats
LD

SNP

SF

IND

DUP

RE

GREEN

PC

SDLP

APNI

OTHER

UUP


Labour Party

Conservative Party

Liberal Democrats

Scottish National Party

Sinn Féin

Independent

Democratic Unionist Party

Reform UK

Green Party

Plaid Cymru

Social Democratic and Labour Party

Alliance Party of Northern Ireland

Other parties

Ulster Unionist Party

650 / 650 seats assigned

Source: The BBC

A U.K. government spokesperson said on Monday: “We should never be left vulnerable to dictators like Putin, and energy independence is at the heart of our approach to delivering net zero.”

However, they added: “All imports of Russian fossil fuels are banned in response to Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. The award of the contract followed all U.K. sanctions requirements and there is a negligible chance of any Russian gas being present in U.K. systems.”

A TotalEnergies spokesperson said the company continues to supply Europe with LNG from Russia’s Yamal LNG facility in the Arctic, “under the long-term contracts that TotalEnergies is legally bound to honor.” 

“The company will continue to do so as long as Europeans governments deem Russian gas necessary for the European Union’s security of supply,” the spokesperson added.

The firm has previously referred POLITICO to its “principles of conduct” for its “Russian related business,” which include “strict compliance” with European sanctions, a pledge to “gradually suspend” activities in Russia, and a refusal to provide further capital for developing projects there.  The company has also halted all short term “spot trading” in Russian gas. There is no suggestion that TotalEnergies has directly imported Russian LNG to the U.K. in breach of the U.K.’s ban.

The EU recently agreed to sanction Russian LNG for the first time since Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 — but only targeted the re-selling of cargoes landed in the EU.

Direct imports into EU countries will remain legal, with France, Spain and Belgium major buyers. While the EU has significantly reduced its reliance on Russian pipeline gas, imports of LNG actually increased since the war began, with 15.6 million metric tons landed at EU ports in 2023, according to Reuters.

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