Everything is possible, everything can happen,” Habeck told the broadcaster Deutschlandfunk. “It could be that the gas flows again, maybe more than before. It can also be the case that nothing comes. “We need to honestly prepare for the worst-case scenario and do our best to try to deal with the situation.”

The work on the 759-mile (1,220km) pipeline is an annual event and requires the gas taps to be closed for 10 to 14 days. But never before in the pipeline’s decade-long history has Germany seriously been asking whether the flow will begin again.

Robert Habeck, Germany’s economy minister, has not shied away from addressing the government’s concerns. On Saturday, he spoke of the “nightmare scenario” that could occur.

Contingency plans are rapidly being drawn up across Germany, where there are genuine concerns that Moscow may use the opportunity to further weaponise gas as a lever against the west in its war with Ukraine and permanently turn off supplies.

Russian gas is vital to the running of Germany’s economy as well as keeping the majority of homes warm. Flows through the pipeline have been reduced in recent months and are at about 40% of the usual levels. Russia has blamed sanctions for the reduced flow, arguing they have hindered its access to spare parts.

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