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Going with the flow: Russia doesn’t plan to shut off gas to Ukraine after Nord Stream 2 pipeline complete, top diplomat insists

Speaking to RIA Novosti in an interview published on Monday, Dmitry Birichevsky, the director of economic co-operation at the country’s Foreign Ministry, said that fears Russia could turn off the tap on supplies to its neighbor were unfounded. “We have no plan to suspend gas supplies through Ukraine,” he said, insisting that “Russia has never used energy or natural resources as a tool of pressure or blackmail.”

In April, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, Aleksey Reznikov, wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the pipeline was an existential threat to his country’s security and economy. He claimed that Moscow has previously “tried to bully Ukraine” by threatening a shut-off of energy supplies.

READ MORE: Biden says Nord Stream 2 sanctions waived because pipeline nearly done & fighting it now would be ‘counterproductive’ with allies

That argument found support among officials in former President Donald Trump’s White House, with top Washington politicians saying the project amounts to a “grave threat” to Europe’s “energy security, and American national security.”

However, last week, current President Joe Biden said that Trump-era sanctions imposed on companies involved in the laying of the pipeline would be dropped. “I had been opposed to Nord Stream 2 from the beginning, but it was almost completed by the time I took office,” the Democratic Party politician told reporters in Washington last Tuesday. “To go ahead and impose sanctions now, I think is counterproductive in terms of our European relations.” Construction could now be completed as early as September.

Nord Stream 2 will bypass Kiev’s borders, linking Siberia’s gas fields to consumers in Western Europe via a conduit under the Baltic Sea, which will make ground in Germany. While Birichevsky insists it will not be used to cut Ukraine off from supplies altogether, it is likely to lead to a substantial decrease in revenue for Kiev in the longer term, given that Moscow pays substantial sums for the right to move gas through the country.

In 2019, Russian state energy firm Gazprom penned a deal to keep the fuel flowing for another five years, handing over an estimated $7 billion as part of the agreement. The network was built on Moscow’s orders during the Soviet era, prior to the breakup of the USSR. While Ukrainian politicians have warned that the country “stands to lose billions of dollars in transit revenue,” Birichevsky said that no short-term changes were expected. He added that the deal, which expires in 2024, is still valid, and that, after it expires, “there will be negotiations between Gazprom and their partners in Ukraine.”

An explosive report published late last year found that lobbyists for Ukrainian energy firm Naftogaz, as well as at least one representative of the country’s security council, actively launched a lobbying campaign in Washington aimed at securing US sanctions against its construction. Naftogaz’s Vadim Glamazdin is said to have claimed that new measures being mulled by American politicians would be “the final nail in the coffin” for the project. “When these sanctions are finally voted and become law, there will be no practical way to build this pipeline,” he is said to have added.

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