German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Tuesday that he was suspending the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project with Russia in response to Moscow’s recognition of two breakaway regions in Ukraine.
Scholz said he had ordered a halt to the review process by the German regulator for the pipeline, seen by Western partners and Kyiv as a crucial bargaining chip in the increasingly fraught standoff with Russia.
“That sounds technical, but it is the necessary administrative step so there can be no certification of the pipeline and without this certification, Nord Stream 2 cannot begin operating," he said.
The Nord Stream 2 project has long been a source of tension with Berlin’s allies, who have argued that it would give Moscow too much leverage by increasing Germany’s energy dependence.
Earlier Tuesday Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky had demanded an immediate halt to Nord Stream 2, which is set to deliver Russian natural gas to Germany via the Baltic Sea.
Zelensky told Scholz while he visited Kyiv last week that Russia was wielding the pipeline as a “geopolitical weapon".
Scholz said Tuesday that the decision to halt the project was only one “concrete" step and that further sanctions against Russia could follow.
“There are also other sanctions that we can introduce if further measures are taken, but for now, it’s a matter of doing something very concrete," he said at a joint press conference with visiting Irish prime minister Micheal Martin.
Scholz voiced confidence that the European Union would agree “robust and massive" sanctions package targeting Russia after Moscow recognised rebel-held districts in eastern Ukraine as independent.
“I am confident that we will succeed," he said in response to a question on whether the 27-nation bloc would agree unanimously to the embargo.
Nord Stream 2, set to double natural gas supplies from Russia to Germany, has become a key lightning rod for the West in its bid to stop Moscow from invading Ukraine.
The pipeline’s construction is complete but German regulators had not yet approved its use.
US President Joe Biden had warned after talks with Scholz in Washington this month that he would find a way to “bring an end" to the project should Russia invade Ukraine.