Germany against withdrawal from Russian gas pipeline project, move would only hurt Ukraine – FM Mass

Germany against withdrawal from Russian gas pipeline project, move would only hurt Ukraine – FM Mass
Berlin won’t scrap the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project after the latest conflict between Moscow and Kiev, says German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, adding it would reduce Germany's ability to allocate gas supplies to Ukraine.

Ukraine has demanded Germany quit the project, accusing Russia of seizing its ships off the coast of Crimea. Moscow accuses Kiev of provocation after Ukrainian warships illegally entered its territorial waters. The conflict has given opponents of the Russia-led gas pipeline fresh grounds for slamming the project.

Earlier, some German conservatives urged the government to reconsider the country’s approach towards the gas pipeline in connection with the maritime incident that occurred over the previous weekend. On November 25, three Ukrainian Navy vessels violated Russia’s maritime border in the Black Sea. The ships and their crew were detained by Russia’s coastguard.

Maas stressed that even if German firms abandon the project, Russia will press on with building the pipeline.

“It would still be built, but there would not be anyone advocating for alternative gas transit through Ukraine. That is why we consider it important to remain engaged politically,” Maas told journalists.

Separately, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who is reportedly a top candidate to replace Chancellor Angela Merkel as leader of the Christian Democrats, said that pulling Germany out of the project would be “too radical.” However, the politician stressed that Berlin may reduce the amount of gas to flow through the new pipeline.

The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which is expected to double the existing pipeline’s capacity of 55 billion cubic meters annually, will run from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea. It is expected to provide transit for 70 percent of Russian gas sales to the EU.

The pipeline, controlled by a subsidiary of Russian energy giant Gazprom, is built in cooperation with German energy firms Wintershall and Uniper, French multinational Engie, Anglo-Dutch Royal Dutch Shell, as well as Austria’s OMV.

The project has been constantly criticized by the Baltic countries, the Ukrainian government and Washington. According to Kiev, the future pipeline would bypass Ukraine and deprive its budget of transit fees. The US government accuses Brussels of strengthening the bloc’s dependence on Russian gas, and Moscow of monopoly abuse on the European energy market.

Both Moscow and Berlin have stressed that the project is all about business and have assured Kiev that Russian gas transit through Ukraine will continue after the pipeline is built.

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