Vladimir Putin’s manipulation of European energy supplies is poised to kill more than 100,000 Europeans from a cold winter, according to a new analysis. Over the past year, the Russian President has gradually squeezed supplies of gas to the fuel-starved continent, as retaliation to the sanctions placed by the West over its invasion of Ukraine. As the war continues, the Kremlin escalated its energy threats, with Putin even warning that Russia may completely cut off the continent from its energy this winter. This weaponisation of gas, which accounted for 40 percent of the bloc’s energy before, has led to fears that Europe may be left without power this winter and has also sent energy prices to record levels.
While the European Union has scrambled to shore up its gas reserves over the summer and may have enough supplies to weather a difficult winter, households across the continent are facing unaffordable energy bills.
Experts have warned that this energy crisis could risk leaving millions of families in a difficult situation, as exorbitant bills may force them to choose between heating and eating, which is a choice that could lead to an increase in the number of deaths across Europe this winter.
Analysis from the Economist has shown that the current cost of energy in the continent will likely lead to an additional 147,000 deaths if Europe faces a typical winter.
This figure could vary depending on the weather, however, as a harsh winter would mean that 185,000 could die from the cold, while a mild winter would mean that about 79,000 could die.
These figures are far more than the estimated number of people killed on the battlefield in Ukraine, with 60,000 believed to be dead, around 30,000 each for both Russia and Ukraine.
During winter months, the number of deaths tends to increase slightly. However, with the astronomical rise in energy bills, the analysis estimates that the number of deaths could well exceed the historical average this winter.
They note that aside from the temperatures, the severity of the flu season could also play a major role in the number of people who die this winter.
Cold temperatures help pathogens survive for longer, while also inhibiting the immune system. Meanwhile, as the body temperature falls, the blood tends to thicken, causing blood pressure to rise, leading to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
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Among all the European countries, including non-EU states like the UK and Norway, Italy was predicted to be the worst hit, due to the high energy costs and large ageing population.
While their analysis had not accounted for the country’s new set of subsidies for poorer households, they warned that such measures would need to be incredibly effective to offset such high prices.
Meanwhile, Estonia and Finland are also badly hit, while France and the UK, which have issued price caps on energy bills, are set to “fare reasonably well”.
For Spain, there is expected to be little difference in the predicted mortality this winter, while Austria, which has a very generous price cap, will deaths fall compared to previous years.
Despite the energy crisis affecting every European country this winter, the analysis admitted that Ukraine would continue to be worst hit, both from the war itself, and the cold winter.
Since February, between 25,000 to 30,000 Ukrainians died in the war, with most of these being young people. Meanwhile, a further 6,500 civilians have also been killed.
Given that Russian forces have begun targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, they note that the most number of lives lost from the cold winter will also be from Ukraine.