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European Union and Ukraine cuts off the branch they perch on, says Putin

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Nord Stream 2, the $10.5 billion, 1,230km gas pipeline running from Russia to north-eastern Germany along the bottom of the Baltic Sea, is complete and ready for operation. However, the project has yet to receive German and European Union regulatory approval, with that process threatening to drag out until next spring.

The ongoing efforts to obstruct the launch of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline are foolish since delivery of additional gas to Europe would reduce prices for everyone, including Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said.

‘Regarding Nord Stream 2, yes, I agree with your assessments; this is also foolish for those who are preventing the system from operating since the delivery of additional gas supplies to the European market would undoubtedly lower spot prices on the market,’ Putin said, speaking at a meeting of officials on Friday.

The Russian leader was commenting on a report by Vladimir Zhirinovsky, leader of the Russian Liberal Democratic Party, about the situation concerning Nord Stream 2.

‘And since many countries, including, by the way, Ukraine which is dependent on the spot price today, and they do not want to buy gas from us directly, would witness a substantial fall in fuel price, simply put, they are cutting the branch on which they sit,’ Putin said.

Ukraine halted the purchase of gas supplies directly from Russia in 2015 and has since depended on reverse flow contracts from Slovakia and other European countries, who buy gas from Russia and sell it back to Kiev at an inflated price. This practice has led to a dramatic jump in utility bills among consumers, as well as Ukrainian businesses, further exacerbating the economic slump caused by Kiev’s effort to cut economic ties with Moscow.

In his report, Zhirinovsky suggested that the European countries were making things worse for themselves and facing the prospect of freezing in a cold winter by keeping Nord Stream 2 from coming online.

Earlier Friday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov accused the European Union of turning Nord Stream 2 into a bargaining chip in its confrontation with Russia, with Brussels politicians ready to pay out of their citizens’ pockets to express solidarity with Washington and annoy Moscow.

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‘It’s sad, but this is a new generation of fanatics of their cause, which found the meaning of their own existence in the battle with Russia,’ Ryabkov said.

Ryabkov’s comments followed warnings from German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock that Berlin might block the launch of the pipeline in the event of an escalation of the situation around Ukraine.

‘Strictly speaking, this was probably something that was expected, although regrettable. On the other hand, I don’t think [Baerbock’s remarks] should be overly dramatized, particularly because nobody is planning to attack Ukraine,’ Ryabkov said.

Russia has repeatedly charged the US and its allies with hampering the project via sanctions, as well as provocative military activities in Ukraine and near Russia’s borders.

US sanctions successfully delayed Nord Stream 2’s completion in 2019, forcing several European contractors, insurers and certifiers to pull out under threat of crushing and potentially fatal restrictions. Gazprom replaced these contractors with Russian companies, with the pipeline subsequently completed in the fall of this year.

Once operational, it will be able to pump up to 55 billion cubic meters of cheaper natural gas per year to Germany; the pipeline is also capable of pumping mass volumes of clean hydrogen.

The tussle over Nord Stream 2 comes amid rocketing gas prices in Europe and shortages in countries’ underground gas storage reserves.

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