German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that he has ordered the withdrawal of a key document needed for the certification of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
“The situation today looks fundamentally different,” Scholz said at a press conference, a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognised two separatist-held areas in Ukraine as independent.
He asked the government to withdraw a key report linked to the pipeline’s certification.
“It sounds a bit technocratic but this is the first necessary step to make sure that the pipeline cannot be certified at this time,” Scholz said.
The pipeline, which connects Russia to Germany through the Baltic Sea, was completed last summer but the German regulator postponed its certification, demanding the German operator be domiciled in Germany.
Both Kyiv and Washington have criticised the pipeline, arguing that it provides Russia with an additional tool to pressure Ukraine.
US President Joe Biden had previously said that if Russia invaded Ukraine, “then there will no longer be Nord Steam 2”.
There had also been concerns that Russia was withholding natural gas from Europe to push for Nord Stream 2’s approval, with Russian officials stating that the pipeline would ease soaring energy costs in Europe.
“Germany’s decision to stop the certification process of Nord Stream 2 does not imply that Russia will now necessarily send even lower volumes of gas to the country and, overall, to Europe,” said Simone Tagliapietra, a senior fellow at the Brussels-based think tank Bruegel.
“If Russia reacts to this decision by halting gas supplies, that would be a deliberate political decision, certainly not grounded in physical infrastructure considerations.”
The German government said earlier this month that gas reserves in the country had fallen to worrying levels amid the energy crisis.