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Germany suspends Nord Stream 2 project with Russia over Ukraine

A road sign directs traffic toward the Nord Stream 2 gas line landfall facility entrance in Lubmin, Germany, on September 10, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has announced the suspension of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project with Russia in response to Moscow's recognition of two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine.

Scholz said at a news conference in the capital, Berlin, on Tuesday that he had ordered a halt to the review process by the German regulator for the $11-billion pipeline, which is designed to carry Russian natural gas to Germany, and had asked the Economy Ministry to make sure certification could not take place for the time being.

"That sounds technical, but it is the necessary administrative step so there can be no certification of the pipeline and without this certification, Nord Stream 2 cannot begin operating," the German chancellor told the presser.

Scholz said the decision to halt the project was only one "concrete" step and that further sanctions against Russia could follow. "There are also other sanctions that we can introduce if further measures are taken, but for now, it's a matter of doing something very concrete," he said.

Scholz also voiced confidence that the European Union would agree on a "robust and massive" sanctions package targeting Russia after Moscow recognized the breakaway Lugansk and Donetsk regions in eastern Ukraine as independent republics.

Earlier in the day, Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky demanded an immediate halt to Nord Stream 2, which is set to deliver Russian natural gas to Germany via the Baltic Sea, after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree recognizing breakaway Lugansk and Donetsk as independent.

Donetsk and Lugansk regions, collectively known as the Donbass, were turned into self-proclaimed republics by its ethnic Russian residents in 2014, which triggered a violent conflict between government forces and secessionists.

The conflict worsened following a wave of protests in Ukraine that led to the overthrow of a democratically-elected pro-Russia government, replacing it with a pro-West administration.

The construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which was supposed to double natural gas supplies from Russia to Germany, was completed in September last year but it lay idle, awaiting regulatory approval from Berlin and Brussels.

Washington has over the past month kept accusing Moscow of planning to attack Ukraine by stationing as many as 190,000 troops on and around Ukraine's borders. Russia has rejected the allegations, saying the military build-up is defensive in nature.

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