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28 Sep, 2021 07:41

Russia must pay Ukraine to transit gas even after Nord Stream 2 pipeline operational, triumphant German SPD leader Scholz declares

Russia must pay Ukraine to transit gas even after Nord Stream 2 pipeline operational, triumphant German SPD leader Scholz declares

The leader of Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) has said that Russia must keep handing over billions of dollars to move gas through Ukraine, long after the already-completed Nord Stream 2 underwater link starts operating.

Speaking on Monday, Olaf Scholz – whose grouping is on course to gain the most seats from the weekend Bundestag elections – said that Kiev’s role in transporting gas must not be undermined by the Moscow-backed project.

“With regard to the pipeline, the construction of which has been completed, it is important for everyone to take into account the guarantees that are associated with its operation. These guarantees include the fact that Ukraine must remain a transit country,” Scholz said.

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A number of countries have raised concerns about the impact of Nord Stream 2, which was completed earlier this month. It is now awaiting certification by German regulators before it begins pumping gas from Siberia to consumers in the West.

In June, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky claimed that the pipeline could cost Ukraine around $3 billion annually, if Russia’s state energy giant Gazprom no longer needs to pay to move supplies through its network of Soviet-built overland pipes.

“Nord Stream 2 will disconnect Ukraine from gas supplies, which means ‘disconnecting’ us from at least $3 billion a year,” he said. “We will have nothing to pay for the Ukrainian Army.”

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Zelensky had repeatedly raised alarm bells with the US and President Joe Biden’s White House, saying that only the Americans could “prevent the completion of Nord Stream 2.” However, despite Washington’s efforts to try and halt the construction of the pipe system through sanctions, the last segment was laid at the start of the month.

Russia has denied that it plans to cut Ukraine off from gas, with Dmitry Birichevsky, director of economic co-operation within Russia’s Foreign Ministry, claiming Kiev’s claims are “unfounded.” He says Moscow has “no plan to suspend gas supplies through Ukraine,” insisting that “Russia has never used energy or natural resources as a tool of pressure or blackmail.”

Gas prices have hit record highs in Western Europe over recent weeks, with consumers seeing benchmark bills rise by around 250%. The International Energy Agency and a number of analysts have called on Moscow to increase supplies, with Ukrainian officials accusing Russia of creating a shortage in order to pressure German officials to certify Nord Stream 2. Speaking on Monday, Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov insisted that all existing orders for deliveries are being met, and revealed that Gazprom is eager to strike new deals to increase supply and drive down prices.

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