A photo taken on April 5, 2022 shows the logo of Russian gas giant Gazprom's German subsidiary Gazprom Germania on their headquarters in Berlin, Germany. (JOHN MACDOUGALL / AFP)

FRANKFURT/DUESSELDORF – Germany has started filling the huge Rehden gas storage facility abandoned by Russia's Gazprom, the site's state-appointed manager said on Thursday, as Europe's biggest economy looks to guard against the risk of Moscow turning off supplies.

Rehden is currently just 0.6 percent full, far below the 36 percent average for Germany's gas storage facilities

Russian gas is vital to Europe and Germany in particular. But supplies have been thrown into doubt by Western sanctions over Russia's special military operation in Ukraine and a looming deadline set by Russia for payments in roubles, which most buyers have rejected.

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Gazprom last month ditched its Gazprom Germania business, including western Europe's biggest gas storage site at Rehden, as diplomatic relations deteriorated. 

"From today, small volumes are being injected," Egbert Laege, the trustee appointed by Germany's energy regulator to temporarily manage the company, told Reuters in his first interview in the role.

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"We are working intensively on solutions to ensure that already soon significantly more gas can flow into the storage facility."

Rehden can hold around 4 billion cubic meters of gas but received only small amounts last winter. Laege said it was clear it needed to be filled for the coming winter.

Rehden is currently just 0.6 percent full, far below the 36 percent average for Germany's gas storage facilities.

The regulator has said it will control Gazprom Germania until Sept 30 and has the right to remove executives, hire new staff and tell management how to proceed. It has not said what will happen after that date.

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"We have made good progress in stabilizing the activities of Gazprom Germania Group in uncertain times," Laege said, adding he was in regular contact with the Economy Ministry, Germany's network regulator and the group's business partners.

"All of them recognize the huge importance of the Gazprom Germania Group for secure gas supplies. The trust of our business partners is perhaps our most important asset. I will do my utmost to maintain and strengthen this trust."