Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Nord Stream 2: 18 companies draw back due to impending US-sanctions

 German newspaper WELT writes:

The USA's threats of sanctions against the German-Russian Baltic Sea gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 are having an effect: After considerable pressure from the government in Washington, at least 18 European companies have now ended their participation in the controversial project or have promised to withdraw, as stated in a report by the US State Department to Congress. According to the information, the companies include the industrial service provider Bilfinger from Mannheim and the Munich Re insurer Munich Re Syndicate Limited.

So far, the United States has only imposed sanctions on the Russian company KVT-RUS, which operates the Fortuna laying ship, because of Nord Stream 2 - the government of the Republican US President Donald Trump announced these punitive measures shortly before the end of her term in January. The company and the ship are also specifically mentioned in the new report. Contrary to expectations, other companies are not punished or threatened with punitive measures.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Nord Stream 2: are stakeholders backing away?

 Asked by german newspaper BILD on it's opinion about the crackdown on protesters in Russia and the future of Nord Stream 2, the oil and gas producer Wintershall gave sibylline answer that that might be understood as a subtle sign of alienation:

The situation in Russia is escalating. And in the Baltic Sea, the Nord Stream 2 gas project is continuing unmoved. But in view of the serious human rights violations by the regime of Vladimir Putin, at least one German partner of "Nord Stream 2 AG" now seems to have moral concerns about the progress of the Russian billion-dollar project.

The Kassel-based company Wintershall Dea responded unusually openly to a BILD request on Monday and sent an answer that is deeply insightful.

BILD asked Wintershall Dea: In view of the brutal crackdown on the democracy protests in Russia, is your company's cooperation with the state-controlled "Nord Stream 2 AG" still compatible with your corporate principles?

The answer: “We are watching the current developments in Russia with concern. Here, however, politicians in Berlin and Brussels have to decide how to behave and what measures they want to take if necessary. "

A bombshell: Chancellor Merkel emphasizes again and again that Nord Stream 2 is “an entrepreneurial project” and that the Navalny case and its consequences in Russia must be “discussed separately”.

At Wintershall Dea, which has invested several hundred million euros in Nord Stream 2, the view is obviously different - but it plays the ball back where it belongs: with the German government and the European Union.

▶ ︎ In addition, the company stated that it would not provide the Russians with any more money - although construction has been delayed for over a year and costs are rising steadily.

A company spokesman on BILD: "Wintershall Dea has paid out 730 million euros for the project, further payments are not planned."

According to BILD information, the company also wants to avoid imminent sanctions by the USA. It informed the United States Embassy in Germany about its funding stop last year.

In principle, however, the construction of the pipeline continues to be seen as justified.

Wintershall Dea told BILD that “against the background of the expected decline in the production of natural gas in Europe, the Nord Stream 2 project is a contribution to competitiveness” and could “strengthen Europe's energy security”.

However, the company admitted that the pipeline was only "one of the many solutions to the impending supply gap and one offer - without any obligation to purchase natural gas from the pipeline".

Monday, February 1, 2021

Nord Stream 2: France calls for construction freeze

In the face of the arrest and detention of Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny and the brutal crackdown on protesters on past week-end, France calls for a suspension of the building work on contentious gas pipeline Nord Stream 2, writes german newspaper WELT

In the light of the arrest of the Russian opposition politician Alexej Navalny and the action against his supporters, France supports the stop of the Nord Stream 2 gas project. France's European Secretary of State Clément Beaune said on Monday on France Inter when asked whether he was in favor of giving up Nord Stream 2 : "Indeed, we have already said that."

Beaune said that sanctions had already been imposed, but that was not enough. Regarding other possible consequences, he added that the Baltic Sea pipeline was an option to consider. "We have always said that in this context we have the greatest doubts about this project."

In addition to France, other EU countries are rejecting the natural gas project. The European Parliament recently voted for an immediate stop to Nord Stream 2. The federal government, however, is sticking to the gas pipeline.

According to the Russian energy company Gazprom, the main investor in Nord Stream 2, 94 percent of the line has already been completed. It consists of two strings, each around 1,230 kilometers long, and is expected to be able to transport 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Russia to Germany per year.

Human rights activists in Russia criticized the mass arrests at rallies for Kremlin critic Navalny as unprecedented. In at least 87 cities, more than 5100 demonstrators were in police custody, reported the Owd-Info portal on Monday night. There have never been so many arrests since the organization was founded a good nine years ago. The activists help arrested demonstrators and publish statistics.

The human rights activists also complained about "disproportionately brutal action" by the security forces against peaceful demonstrators. More than 50 people were beaten when they were arrested. More than 90 journalists were arrested in 31 cities in Russia. "The police deliberately interfered with the work of the press that wanted to cover the protests," it said.

On Sunday there were demonstrations in more than 100 cities for the release of Navalny and against corruption and arbitrary justice. All of the actions were not approved. Arrest could result in a fine or imprisonment. More than a week ago, there were around 4,000 arrests during mass protests in Russia, according to human rights activists. The authorities did not comment on these numbers.

Navalny had been arrested at a Moscow airport just over two weeks ago on his return from Germany, where he had been recovering from a poison attack for five months. The 44-year-old blames President Vladimir Putin and the domestic secret service FSB for the crime. Putin and the FSB rejected that.