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Russia vows to complete Nord Stream 2 by end of 2020

By AFP - Dec 28,2019 - Last updated at Dec 28,2019

MOSCOW — Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Friday that a controversial gas pipeline would be completed by the end of next year, adding Moscow could use its own pipe-laying vessel to skirt US sanctions.

Nord Stream 2, which aims to double Russia's natural gas deliveries to Germany, was slated for completion in early 2020 with a view to being operational in mid-2020.

The United States has long opposed the 9.5 billion-euro ($10.6 billion) project and the US Senate voted last week to slap sanctions on companies working on it. 

The American announcement of asset freezes and visa bans targeting companies involved in the project immediately led to Swiss pipe-laying contractor Allseas halting its work on the remaining stretches.

"Nord Stream 2 will be launched by the end of 2020," Novak told reporters on Friday.

He said Russia could use its own vessel — The Academician Chersky — to finish laying the pipeline, adding it was currently stationed in the Far East.

"Some time is needed for additional preparations," Novak added.

An energy ministry source said the vessel would have to be outfitted with necessary equipment.

Earlier this week, President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that Russia has "certain capacity" to finish the project "in the foreseeable future" but declined to provide details.

The pipe-laying vessel has been operated by Gazprom Fleet, a subsidiary of gas giant Gazprom since 2016.

Washington insists the pipeline would give Russia too much influence over security and economic issues in western Europe.

Germany has accused the United States of interfering in its internal affairs and an EU spokesman said the bloc was opposed "as a matter of principle to the imposition of sanctions against European companies engaged in legal activities".

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