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RUSSIA

Embattled Nord Stream 2 seeks to skirt Danish veto

Russia's controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline consortium on Friday said it had applied for an alternative route to skirt a new Danish law that threatened to block the project.

Embattled Nord Stream 2 seeks to skirt Danish veto
A file photo showing pipes for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline stacked in Mukran harbour in Sassnitz, Germany. Photo: Stefan Sauer/DPA via AP, file/Ritzau Scanpix

New legislation which took effect in January allows the Danish government to veto pipelines passing through the Nordic nation's territorial waters based on its foreign policy, security and defence interests. 

Led by Russia's gas giant Gazprom, the consortium said in a statement that the law gives the Danish foreign ministry the right to grant the green light for pipeline and infrastructure projects.

Since no decision has been forthcoming since the law was passed in January 2018, “Nord Stream 2 AG decided to explore alternative routes outside of Danish territorial waters,” the consortium said.

The initial route was planned to pass south of the Danish island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea, entering Danish territorial waters.

But the 175-kilometre-long alternative route would pass northwest of Bornholm, avoiding Denmark's territorial waters and only entering its exclusive economic zone.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, countries cannot block other nations from laying underwater pipelines and cables.

The Danish Energy Agency on Thursday said it was processing the application.

Gazprom plans to lay the 1,200-kilometre Nord Stream 2 pipeline through the Baltic Sea to the German coast near Greifswald, where it would connect to the European gas transport networks.

The pipeline has caused splits within the EU, with Poland and other eastern states fearing it could be used as a tool to boost Russian influence over the bloc.

The Baltic route allows Germany and other European countries to avoid gas piped through Ukraine. Russia has shut off gas supplies to Ukraine in the past, having knock-on effects in the European Union.

READ ALSO: Denmark could block Russian pipeline

RUSSIA

Germany arrests Russian scientist for spying for Moscow

German police arrested a Russian scientist working at an unidentified university, accusing him of spying for Moscow, prosecutors said on Monday, in a case that risks further inflaming bilateral tensions.

Germany arrests Russian scientist for spying for Moscow
Vladimir Putin. Photo: dpa/AP | Patrick Semansky

Federal prosecutors said in a statement that the suspect, identified only as Ilnur N., had been taken into custody on Friday on suspicion of “working for a Russian secret service since early October 2020 at the latest”.

Ilnur N. was employed until the time of his arrest as a research assistant for a natural sciences and technology department at the unnamed German university.

German investigators believe he met at least three times with a member of Russian intelligence between October 2020 and this month. On two occasions he allegedly “passed on information from the university’s domain”.

He is suspected of accepting cash in exchange for his services.

German authorities searched his home and workplace in the course of the arrest.

The suspect appeared before a judge on Saturday who remanded him in custody.

‘Completely unacceptable’

Neither the German nor the Russian government made any immediate comment on the case.

However Moscow is at loggerheads with a number of Western capitals after a Russian troop build-up on Ukraine’s borders and a series of espionage scandals that have resulted in diplomatic expulsions.

Italy this month said it had created a national cybersecurity agency following warnings by Prime Minister Mario Draghi that Europe needed to
protect itself from Russian “interference”. 

The move came after an Italian navy captain was caught red-handed by police while selling confidential military documents leaked from his computer to a Russian embassy official.

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The leaders of nine eastern European nations last month condemned what they termed Russian “aggressive acts” citing operations in Ukraine and “sabotage” allegedly targeted at the Czech Republic.

Several central and eastern European countries have expelled Russian diplomats in solidarity with Prague but Russia has branded accusations of its involvement as “absurd” and responded with tit-for-tat expulsions.

The latest espionage case also comes at a time of highly strained relations between Russia and Germany on a number of fronts including the ongoing detention of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who received treatment in Berlin after a near-fatal poisoning.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has moreover worked to maintain a sanctions regime over Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula, the scene of ongoing fighting between pro-Russia separatists and local forces.

And Germany has repeatedly accused Russia of cyberattacks on its soil.

The most high-profile incident blamed on Russian hackers to date was a cyberattack in 2015 that completely paralysed the computer network of the Bundestag lower house of parliament, forcing the entire institution offline for days while it was fixed.

German prosecutors in February filed espionage charges against a German man suspected of having passed the floor plans of parliament to Russian secret services in 2017.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas last week said Germany was expecting to be the target of Russian disinformation in the run-up to its general election in September, calling it “completely unacceptable”.

Russia denies being behind such activities.

Despite international criticism, Berlin has forged ahead with plans to finish the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, set to double natural gas supplies from Russia to Germany.

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