Russia’s state-run gas producer, Gazprom, announced that its natural gas exports to Europe had risen by almost 8% to 159.4bcm in 2015, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported. Russia’s gas supplies to Italy increased by 12.6%, to France by 36.8%, to Great Britain by 10.2%, and to Austria by 11.5%. Gas exports to Germany, which is the top buyer of Russian gas, rose by 17.1%, an all-time high, said Gazprom CEO, Alexei Miller.

The rise came despite EU sanctions imposed on Moscow in retaliation for Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and backing of separatists in Ukraine’s civil conflict. Moscow still remains the largest gas supplier to the EU countries, meeting a third of its gas demand. According to Gazprom, the rise in exports reflected decreasing gas production in Europe, a trend which is likely to continue. The EU, however, insists that it has made progress lessening its dependence on Russian gas.

In addition, according to Miller, the increases strongly confirm the need for the construction of Nord Stream II gas pipeline, Business Recorder informed. Gazprom has recently, however, cancelled several tenders for the construction of over 400 km of a gas trunk pipeline needed for the planned project, without stating reasons behind the decision, reported Reuters. The Nord Stream is designed to increase Russian natural gas exports to Europe by doubling the amount of gas Russia sends to Germany under the Baltic Sea. The pipelines can already ship up to 55bcm/year of gas, but its potential expansion has fallen under EU member states’ criticism.