President Zelenskyy of Ukraine is a staunch opponent of Russia’s $12 billion Baltic Sea pipeline, which would deprive Kyiv of vital gas transit fees.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described the soon-to-be-completed Nord Stream 2 project, which would bring Russian gas to Europe while bypassing Ukraine, as a “dangerous geopolitical weapon” for Kyiv.
The Ukrainian president spoke at a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Kyiv on Sunday. Merkel is the driving force behind the pipeline project, which is opposed by Russia’s neighbors Ukraine, Poland, and the Baltic states.
The $12 billion Baltic Sea pipeline is expected to increase Russian natural gas exports to Germany, Europe’s largest economy. It steers clear of Ukraine, denying Kyiv vital gas transit costs.
“We view this project exclusively through the prism of security and consider it a dangerous geopolitical weapon of the Kremlin,” Zelenskyy said.
He went on to say that the pipeline’s major hazards will be “borne by Ukraine,” but that it will also be perilous “for all of Europe.”
According to him, the pipeline “will just play into the hands of the Russian Federation.”
Merkel, for one, stated that Berlin agrees with the US that “gas must not be used as a geopolitical weapon.”
“It will come down to if there is an extension to the transit contract via Ukraine – the sooner the better,” she said, referring to the expiry of Moscow’s agreement with Kyiv in 2024.
‘A special responsibility’
The German leader, who met Zelenskyy two days after visiting his Russian counterpart in Moscow, said she had discussed with Vladimir Putin extending the contract past 2024.
“We feel a special responsibility” and “understand the big concerns that President Zelenskyy expressed”, she said. “We take them very seriously.”
Zelenskyy said he and Merkel had discussed the extension, but noted that he so far had heard only “very general things”.
The construction of the pipeline led to tensions between Germany and the United States, but Washington eventually waived sanctions against the Russian-controlled builder of the pipeline.
Merkel stated that if gas is “used as a weapon,” the Germany-US agreement contains “sanctions.”
She went on to say that these agreements were “binding on future German governments,” as she prepares to step down after 16 years in power next month.
The US-Germany agreement included a pledge to assist Ukraine in receiving transit payments once Nord Stream 2 is operating.
However, Yuriy Vitrenko, the chairman of Ukraine’s state energy company Naftogaz, told Reuters last month that he does not believe Russia will continue to transport gas through Ukraine after 2024.
Since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and pro-Russia separatists broke away from the country’s east, Merkel has been a critical ally of Ukraine.
However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has enraged Ukrainian officials by opposing supplying weaponry to Kyiv and completing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
Merkel also wants to see greater progress in the peace talks over eastern Ukraine, and she called for “Normandy format” discussions involving Germany, France, Russia, and Ukraine on Sunday.
“This would enable progress, in my opinion,” she said. “I’m pleased that Zelenskyy said he would be prepared to do so.”
Source: AL JAZEERA