Merkel has unleashed a ‘dangerous weapon on all of Europe’ with £9bn Putin agreement

EU: Guy Verhofstadt calls to ‘reconsider’ Nord Stream 2

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The 43-year-old has warned the soon-to-be-completed Nord Stream 2 pipe carrying Russian gas to Europe and bypassing Ukraine as “a dangerous geopolitical weapon”. He was speaking during a joint news conference in Kyiv with the German Chancellor about the pipeline project fiercely opposed by Ukraine, Poland and other Baltic states. The $12billion (£8.8billion) project, spearheaded by Mrs Merkel, will double Russian natural gas shipments to Germany, Europe’s largest economy.

But it will bypass Ukraine and deprive Kyiv of essential gas transit fees.

Mr Zelenskyy said: “We view this project exclusively through the prism of security and consider it a dangerous geopolitical weapon of the Kremlin.”

He added that the main risks after its completion will be “borne by Ukraine” but that the pipeline will also be dangerous “for all of Europe”.

The pipeline “will only play into the hands of the Russian Federation”, he added.

Mrs Merkel insisted that “gas must not be used as a geopolitical weapon” and said it will “come down to if there is an extension to the transit contract via Ukraine”.

It came on Sunday, two days after Mrs Merkel met with Mr Putin.

The Russian leader said on Friday there were just nine miles left to complete the pipeline. He also said Russia planned to fully comply with its obligations on gas transit via Ukraine.

He said Moscow was ready to extend a transit agreement with Ukraine beyond 2024 but that it needed more details.

Shortly after Putin’s comments on the pipeline, Washington announced new sanctions on one Russian vessel and two Russian individuals involved in Nord Stream 2.

Critics say the pipeline threatens European energy security, heightens Russia’s influence and poses risks to Ukraine and Poland in bypassing both countries.

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.

Mrs Merkel said the Germany-US agreement specifies “sanctions” if gas is “used as a weapon”.

The US-Germany deal included a commitment to helping Ukraine continue to receive transit fees once Nord Stream 2 becomes operational.

She added that these commitments were “binding on future German governments”, as she is set to leave office next month after 16 years in power.

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But the head of Ukraine’s state energy firm Naftogaz, Yuriy Vitrenko, previously rejected the claims and said he did not think Russia would continue to transit any gas through Ukraine beyond 2024.

He said: “I believe that this is a weapon.

“I believe that not to notice that this is a dangerous weapon, not only for Ukraine but for the whole of Europe, is wrong.

“As for the continuation of transit through Ukraine after 2024, I think that so far these things are too general.”

Mrs Merkel has been a key ally of Ukraine since 2014, when Moscow annexed Crimea and pro-Russia separatists broke away from the country’s east.

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