Austria Rejects Halting Nord Stream 2 Pipeline Over Navalny Poisoning
By RFE/RL September 15, 2020
Austria has said it still supports the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, despite growing reservations about the project in parts of Europe following the poisoning of Russian opposition figure Aleksei Navalny.
President Alexander Van der Bellen said on September 15 that there should be no connection between the Navalny case and Nord Stream 2, a nearly complete pipeline that will bring gas from Russia to Europe beneath the Baltic Sea.
Van der Bellen was speaking alongside visiting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, whose country receives vital income from the transit of Russian gas and fears being weakened by Nord Stream 2.
Austria's OMV is one of the European companies in the consortium involved in financing the $11-billion pipeline.
Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, also speaking next to Zelenskiy later in the day, echoed Van der Bellen's view that there was no need to halt Nord Stream 2 because of Navalny's poisoning.
The pipeline is "economically a positive project," Kurz said.
The conservative chancellor added that the project was about energy diversification for Europe.
Zelenskiy said he understood Austria's economic and business interests, but that Nord Stream 2 is tied with Ukraine's energy security and the future flow of energy to Europe.
He said he hoped the pipeline would be seen "from our point of view."
Austria's fellow EU members Poland and the Baltic states are also opposed to Nord Stream 2, and the United States has sought to halt the project with sanctions that have infuriated European capitals.
Germany has been one of Nord Stream 2's biggest proponents but there are growing calls within Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government and the opposition to halt the pipeline over Navalny's poisoning if Moscow doesn't cooperate with a transparent investigation.
Navalny suddenly fell ill on a Russian domestic flight on August 20 and was medically evacuated to Germany, where a military laboratory found the anti-corruption campaigner had been poisoned with a Soviet-style military nerve agent from the Novichok group.
Russian authorities have refused to open a criminal investigation, saying that no hard evidence of poisoning has been found.
With reporting by AFP and Die Presse
Copyright (c) 2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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