Putin defends Nord Stream 2 pipeline, says it will improve US ties with Europe


By Vladimir Solatkin and Katya Golubkova

SAINT PETERSBURG (Reuters) – Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline is set to begin pumping gas to Germany, and the final section of the project will be completed as the new US administration seeks good relations with “major partners in Europe”, according to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday defended.

Successive US governments have imposed sanctions to try to block a project that would bring gas from Russia to Germany, which would pass directly through Ukraine, a Western ally.

Russian energy giant Gazprom went ahead with pipeline construction in late 2019 after US sanctions hampered hiring of the pipeline company, but management Joe Biden recently eased some restrictions.

“I think this must be concluded, especially when the new US government speaks of its intention to build good relations with major partners in Europe,” Putin said during an event in St. Petersburg.

“How can you build a good relationship with your partners and ignore their interests? Doesn’t make sense”.

Putin said that Russia has completed the laying of the pipeline for the first line of Nord Stream 2 and the second line is expected to be completed within two months.

The project has less than 100 kilometers to complete, Prime Minister Alexander Novak said.

When completed, Nord Stream 2 will double the amount that can be transported between Russia and Europe on the current route to 110 billion cubic meters, increasing Russia’s European reliance on energy.

The pipeline, which would allow competition for liquefied natural gas shipments from the US to Europe, was described by Biden as “bad business” for Europe.

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But easing some restrictions last month, Biden said the project was nearing completion and continued sanctions could damage relations with Europe.

Putin said Russia’s total gas supply to Europe is expected to exceed 200 billion cubic meters this year, and could increase by an additional 50 billion cubic meters over the next decade.

(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin and Katya Golubkova; Additional reporting by Oksana Kobzeva in Moscow and Timothy Gardner in Washington)

((Translation of Sसाo Paulo Newsroom, 55 11 56447745))

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