Washington hits Russia pipeline firm with curbs

2021-01-21 12:05:15

Tugboats move alongside the Russian pipe-laying vessel Fortuna in the port of Wismar, Germany, on Jan 14. JENS BUETTNER/DPA/AP The United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions on a company involved in building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to take Russian natural gas to Europe-the Trump administration's last full day in office. The US Treasury Department said it imposed the sanctions on the Russian pipe-laying ship Fortuna and its owner, KVT-RUS, under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA. "The United States is not afraid to hold accountable those who continue to aid and abet this tool of Russian coercion," said Mike Pompeo in one of his last acts as secretary of state. Nord Stream 2, designed to double the capacity of the existing Nord Stream undersea gas pipeline, would take gas to Europe via Germany, bypassing Ukraine. That would deprive Kiev of lucrative transit fees. The project is a rising point of contention between Moscow and Washington. The US, eager to sell Europe more liquefied natural gas, says Nord Stream 2 will increase Russia's economic and political leverage over Europe. Moscow and Germany say it is a commercial project. The State Department said it would consider further actions in the near term, under CAATSA and under new sanctions expanded in the annual defense policy bill. Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov slammed the latest sanctions as a violation of international laws. The US will not win from slapping sanctions on participants in the project to build the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in an attempt to force European countries to buy US raw materials, Antonov said on Tuesday. "Washington has long been trying by all means to hinder the implementation of this international commercial project," he said. "Several legislative measures have been adopted. Groundless threats are constantly being voiced against Russia and its European partners interested in cooperation in the gas sector. "The US went beyond decency in an attempt to achieve its opportunistic goals. They violate the norms of international law, the principles of fair and free trade. They don't even take into consideration the opinion of their own allies." Ensuring completion Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov earlier told reporters that the project was under "unlawful" US pressure and the Kremlin was closely watching developments in order to ensure the pipeline's completion. According to the Reuters news agency, Joe Biden also opposed Nord Stream during the Democrat's campaign for the presidency. The earlier report said Antony Blinken, Biden's nominee to be secretary of state, told his Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday that Biden strongly agrees with members of Congress that the pipeline is a bad idea. Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he had not discussed the issue at length yet with Biden, but the administration will use "every persuasive tool" available to persuade countries including Germany. Germany, seeking to wean itself off nuclear and coal-fired power plants, said it was disappointed by the fresh sanctions on Monday, after Washington gave Berlin early word of the action. Peskov said Russian President Vladimir Putin had no plans to contact either Biden or Donald Trump, the Republican president he defeated in the Nov 3 election. "No, no contacts are planned yet," he replied when asked whether Putin was planning to bid farewell to Trump before leaving the White House.