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Denmark clears way for Russian gas pipeline

Denmark has granted Russia's Nord Stream 2 project a permit to build a section of the natural gas pipeline on the Danish continental shelf in the Baltic Sea.

Denmark clears way for Russian gas pipeline
Nord Stream 2 pipeline being laid in the Baltic Sea. Photo: Stine Jacobsen/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

“The Danish Energy Agency has granted a permit to Nord Stream 2 AG to construct a section of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipelines on the Danish continental shelf southeast of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea,” the agency said in a statement on Wednesday.

The pipeline being constructed under the Baltic Sea by Russia's Gazprom energy giant is nearly complete, but had not previously been granted permission to cross Denmark's exclusive economic zone.

The Danish Energy Agency noted in its statement that Denmark “is obliged to allow the construction of transit pipelines” under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Dan Jørgensen, Denmark's energy and climate minister, also told a press briefing of foreign journalists that it was “a purely administrative decision.”

“We are pleased to have obtained Denmark's consent to construct the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline through the Danish continental shelf area in the Baltic Sea south-east of Bornholm,” Samira Kiefer Andersson, Permitting Manager for Denmark at Nord Stream 2, said in a statement.

The statement added that “preparatory works, such as the installation of concrete mattresses and rock placement… and the subsequent pipelay” would start in the coming weeks.

The Danish permit covers a 147-kilometre-long stretch of the pipeline, which will directly connect Russia to Germany, and, according to the Nord Stream 2 consortium, over 2,100 kilometres of pipeline has already been completed.

Pipelaying has been completed in Russian, Finnish and Swedish waters, and “for the most part in German waters.”

In early October, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that even if Denmark were to block the pipeline the project would still be completed, but would be re-routed.

The Baltic energy link will double the capacity to ship gas between Russia and Germany, sparking concerns about Western Europe's increasing dependence on Russian gas. 

It has also raised fears that Moscow will be able to increase pressure on Ukraine, as Europe will be less reliant on the country for transiting supplies.

US Energy Secretary Rick Perry warned during a recent visit to Lithuania that the pipeline “would increase Russia's leverage over Europe's foreign policy”.

Perry added that the Nord Stream 2, together the TurkStream pipeline — which will supply Russian gas to Turkey via the Black Sea — “would enable Moscow to end gas transit through Ukraine by the close of the decade.”

US President Donald Trump has also said it makes Germany “a hostage to Russia,” and threatened the project and those tied to it with sanctions.

Nord Stream 2's proponents — led by Germany, the EU's biggest economy — say the pipeline will provide reliable supplies at an acceptable price.

Following the Danish announcement on Wednesday, shares in Gazprom rose by more than four percent on the Moscow stock exchange, hitting their highest levels since 2008.

Nord Stream 2 is scheduled to enter into service towards the end of 2019.

READ ALSO: Sweden's rejection of Russian pipeline brings Danes to table

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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.

READ ALSO:

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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