Conflicts & War

Germany halts pipeline deal after Putin sends troops into eastern Ukraine

(Update: adds info on EU, UK sanctions)

Berlin, Feb 22 (EFE).- Germany suspended the lucrative and controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline deal on Tuesday while the European Union and United Kingdom drew up fresh sanctions in response to Russian president Vladimir Putin’s recognition of two pro-Russian separatist territories in eastern Ukraine.

“Against the background of the escalating conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the German government is halting the approval process for the Russian-German Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline until further notice,” chancellor Olaf Scholz told a Berlin press conference.

“Without this certification, Nord Stream 2 cannot go into operation.”

The pipeline, which is operated by Russian energy giant Gazprom and has already been completed, will transport gas directly from Russia to the European Union via the Baltic Sea through German territory, thereby avoiding transit through Ukraine.


Scholz said Putin had “no support from the global community” for the action, which came following weeks of escalating military tensions and had forced Germany to reassess the situation.

Western allied powers were scrambling on Tuesday to respond to the latest escalation in a crisis that has been simmering for weeks.

British prime minister Boris Johnson told parliament that the UK would impose sanctions on five Russian banks as well as oligarchs Gennadiy Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg and Igor Rotenberg.

“This is the first tranche, the first barrage of what we are prepared to do,” Johnson told MPs, adding that “we hold further sanctions at readiness to be deployed alongside the US and EU if the situation escalates still further.”

Some in the House of Commons called on the prime minister to go further by barring the oligarchs from entering the UK, and questioned whether Russia was an appropriate host for international sporting competitions such as this season’s Champions League final — due to be held in St Petersburg in May.

Johnson said there was “no chance of holding football tournaments in a Russia that invades sovereign countries,” while his culture secretary Nadine Dorries insisted that the UK would not “allow President Putin to exploit events on the world stage to legitimize his illegal invasion of Ukraine.”

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, who in a joint statement with European Council president Charles Michel called Moscow’s “aggression” against Ukraine “illegal and unacceptable,” outlined a first package of sanctions that the bloc’s foreign ministers would review at an informal meeting being held in Paris on Tuesday.

The proposed sanctions include targeting individuals who were involved in the illegal decision, banks that finance Russian military and other operations in those territories, the Russian state and government’s ability to access the EU’s capital and financial markets and services, and trade from the two breakaway regions to and from the EU “to ensure that those responsible clearly feel the economic consequences of their illegal and aggressive actions.”


In a fiery speech on Monday evening, Putin recognised the two self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Luhansk and Donetsk and announced that he was sending in Russian “peacekeeping” forces, a move that essentially tore up the Minsk Accords signed in 2015 to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine and sparked an international backlash.

“I would like to emphasize again that Ukraine is not just a neighboring country for us. It is an inalienable part of our own history, culture and spiritual space,” he said.

Putin said negotiations with Western countries on resolving the Ukraine crisis have hit a “dead end” and that the situation in the Donbas region — where since 2014 Russia-backed separatists have battled Ukrainian government forces, a conflict that has claimed around 14,000 lives — “has reached a critical, acute stage.”

Russia’s president also issued a stark warning to Ukraine’s government.

“As for those who seized and hold power in Kiev, we demand an immediate end to their military operations” against Donetsk and Luhansk, Putin said. “Otherwise, all responsibility for the possible continuation of bloodshed will be fully on the conscience of the regime in power in Ukraine.”

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