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4 Oct, 2021 12:56

‘Legal squiggles’ could delay start of Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline operation, Russian officials warn, as EU energy crisis deepens

‘Legal squiggles’ could delay start of Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline operation, Russian officials warn, as EU energy crisis deepens

Despite the final sections of the pipeline having already been laid, the Russian-backed Nord Stream 2 could still face hurdles before it can start pumping natural gas to consumers in the West, Moscow’s Foreign Ministry has said.

Speaking on Saturday, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko told journalists that everything is ready and awaiting certification before operations start up. However, he said, the pipeline’s opposition could still find administrative and legal loopholes in an effort to undermine the project at the very last moment.

“I will stress once again: all the necessary steps, including in the legal field, have been taken and we firmly hope that this project will be implemented,” Grushko explained, adding that obtaining certification for the pipeline is “rather complicated.”

However, the government official also stated that “it is still difficult to say what legal squiggles” could be used to hamper Nord Stream 2, and which of its opponents might try to derail the program at the last minute.

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The final stretch of pipeline, which runs from the Russian coast through the Baltic Sea to Germany, was laid on September 6, with the official completion of the gas transportation network announced four days later.

In September, Ukraine raged at the news that the project was nearing completion, saying that it would continue its fight against Nord Stream 2. The country’s president Volodymyr Zelensky said that the pipe network is a powerful “weapon” for Russia, with Kiev claiming it will be deprived of billions of dollars in transit fees if supplies no longer need to flow through the Soviet-era overground network that runs through Ukraine.

The US has also previously attempted to slow Gazprom’s progress by imposing sanctions on a Russian ship and two companies involved in its construction. However, other opponents have acknowledged that the legislation would have no serious effect on the $11 billion project.

At the start of October, the German energy company Uniper said that there will be an indefinite delay in certifying Nord Stream 2, with the chairman of the company’s board explaining that the process will take a long time and fuel supplies will not start this winter.

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The Kremlin has insisted that Nord Stream 2 will proceed as anticipated but has not yet given an exact date as to when supplies output will begin.

Meanwhile gas prices in some parts of Western Europe have shot up by 250%, as reserves dwindle and winter looms. There have been calls for Russia to step up its exports, with Gazprom insisting that it is already meeting all existing orders and has taken steps to ensure it can deliver additional supplies if new contracts are signed.

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