Only 15km Left to Finish Nord Stream 2 Pipeline, Putin Says
There are only 15 km (9 miles) left to finish the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany that bypasses Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday.
The $11 billion project doubling the capacity of the first Nord Stream pipeline to 110 billion cubic meters a year has been a focal point of tensions between Moscow and the West.
Despite U.S. sanctions, Nord Stream 2 is almost complete and the key question is how Russia will ship its gas to Europe once a current transit deal between Kyiv and Moscow expires in 2024.
After meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Kremlin on Friday, Putin said Russia planned to fully comply with its obligations on gas transit via Ukraine.
He said Moscow was ready to send gas via its neighbor even after 2024 but Russia needed to understand the scale of demand for its fossil fuel first.
"And for this, we need to get an answer from our European partners on how much they are ready to buy," Putin told a news conference. "We cannot sign a transit contract if we don't have supply contracts with our consumers in Europe."
The European gas market is eagerly awaiting Russian flows via Nord Stream 2 as European gas prices have reached record highs due to low liquefied natural gas supplies.
Putin said future gas supplies were a matter for talks given Europe's green energy drive.
Ukraine has opposed the construction of Nord Stream 2, saying it was politically motivated.
Before the Putin-Merkel talks on Friday, Ukraine's state energy firm Naftogaz said the project breached European Union regulations, could not work commercially, and should be stopped.
(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin, Andrew Osborn and Maria Kiselyova; Writing by Tom Balmforth and Andrey Ostroukh; Editing by David Evans and David Clarke)