Russian ships move to resume Baltic pipeline construction

MOSCOW (AP) – A Russian pipe-laying ship sailed into position on Saturday to resume construction of a German-Russian gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea that the United States (US) has vehemently opposed.

The Akademik Cherskiy vessel reached the area off the coast of Poland where a section of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline remains uncompleted, according to ship monitoring data. Another Russian pipe-laying ship, Fortuna, sailed off from the German port of Wismar, apparently heading to a different location where another pipeline section is to be built.

The maneuvers followed Russia pledging to complete the pipeline despite the threat of US sanctions.

Russia’s state-controlled natural gas company Gazprom has moved to finish construction of the multibillion Baltic Sea pipeline with its own resources after a Swiss company doing the building work at sea opted out of the project a year ago under the threat of US sanctions.

Gazprom had to send the Akademik Cherskiy on a long voyage from the port of Nakhodka on Russia’s Pacific coast to the Baltics. The vessel has been moving between various Baltic ports since May as the Nord Stream 2 construction plans were thrown into uncertainty by the sanctions threat.

The US has argued that the Nord Stream 2 would erode European energy security at a time when Russia-West relations have sank to post-Cold War lows due to crises such as Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea.

The Kremlin has countered by accusing Washington of trying to derail the project in a bid to force European customers to purchase US liquefied natural gas instead of the cheaper Russian natural gas.

Pipes for the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea gas pipeline stored on the premises of the port of Mukran near Sassnitz, Germany. PHOTO: AP