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Russia Tries Soft Touch With Europe as Market Blunts Gas Weapon

  • Gazprom faces new rivals in Europe, slow progress in Asia
  • Russia eases hard line it had taken during Ukraine crisis
An employee crosses an access way beside an oil storage tank at the central processing plant for oil and gas at the Salym Petroleum Development oil fields near Salym, Russia, on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014. Salym Petroleum Development, the venture between Shell and Gazprom Neft, has started drilling the first of five horizontal wells over the next two years that will employ multi-fracturing technology, according to a statement today.
Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg
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Vladimir Putin may be throwing his military power around like never before, but the Kremlin is finding another weapon in its arsenal -- massive gas exports -- is losing its punch. 

Facing unprecedented competition in its main market and slow progress in cracking into new ones in China, Gazprom PJSC has dropped the bluster and threats it brandished with clients in Europe amid the Ukrainian crisis last year. Instead, the Russian gas giant is showing new flexibility with customers, hastily reviving pipeline projects to bring gas directly to the European Union and pushing to settle an EU antitrust claim that could cost it billions of dollars.