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U.S. senators to announce sanctions bill on Russia's Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline

Reuters | Updated: 04-06-2020 04:16 IST | Created: 04-06-2020 04:16 IST
U.S. senators to announce sanctions bill on Russia's Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline

U.S. senators will announce a bill this week expanding sanctions on Russia's Nord Stream 2, a natural gas pipeline to Germany opposed by many in Washington who say it would tighten Moscow's political and economic grip on Europe, Senate aides said on Wednesday. The Protecting Europe's Energy Security Clarification Act, follows legislation signed by President Donald Trump late last year. After it became law, Swiss-Dutch company Allseas immediately halted undersea work on the pipeline, which aims to double the capacity of an existing line sending Russian gas to Germany.

Two Russian-owned pipe-laying vessels will now likely be used to finish the remaining 100 miles (160 km) of the project, led by state gas company Gazprom. Nord Stream 2, which would send gas under the Baltic Sea, could be launched by the end of 2020 or early next year, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on May 28 that Moscow considered the sanctions contradictory to international law. Many politicians and energy companies in Germany support Nord Stream 2 because Europe’s biggest economy needs steady gas supplies as it seeks to wean itself off coal and nuclear power.

The new legislation, spearheaded by Senators Ted Cruz, a Republican, and Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, would expand the sanctions to include penalties on parties involved in pipe-laying activities, not just pipe laying, and on parties providing underwriting services, insurance or reinsurance for the vessels. A copy of a draft bill was seen by Reuters. "Congress must once again take decisive action and stand in this pipeline's path," Shaheen said.

Cruz said the bill "makes clear those involved with vessels installing the pipeline will face crippling and immediate sanctions." The Trump administration, which opposes the pipeline, has touted exports of U.S. liquefied natural gas, or LNG, as "freedom gas" that gives Europe an alternative to Russian supply. The amount of gas flowing on pipelines to U.S. LNG export plants has plunged to a 13-month low, a signal of weak global demand because of the novel coronavirus.

"At a time that the coronavirus pandemic puts massive pressure on countries across the globe, it is not right (for the U.S.) to keep escalating this sanctions threat, which is extraterritorial and thus in conflict with international law," German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier was quoted as saying in a German newspaper last week. The bill, which must be passed by both chambers of Congress and signed by Trump before becoming law, also adds sanctions on companies providing services or facilities for the vessels, including welding equipment, retrofitting or tethering of the ships.

Nord Stream 2 did not immediately respond to a request for comment.



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