Russia: Expert discusses Nord Stream and Navalny

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Yuriy Vitrenko, CEO of Ukraine gas giant Naftogaz, told Express.co.uk that an escalation of conflict between Russia and Ukraine is on the cards after the Russian President reportedly restricted the flow of gas. State-owned Russian gas company Gazprom is said to have tightened the supplies as the controversial Nord Stream 2 awaits approval from German regulators. The pipeline will transport gas from Russia into Germany through the Baltic Sea, bypassing Ukraine and Poland.

But as Mr Putin hopes to avoid Germany implementing EU across the system, Gazprom is said to have reduced the flow of gas travelling into Europe, including Ukraine, posing threats of an energy crisis in Europe.

Mr Vitrenko slammed Mr Putin for “weaponising” the pipeline.

He added: “One could call it a very old game of divide and conquer.

“He [Mr Putin] does not accept the idea of a level playing field with a real gas market in Europe.

“Unfortunately, he still treats gas as a geopolitical weapon, not as a commodity

“Nord Stream 2 was developed at the time of his plan to divide and conquer Europe through such deals, and that is why he becomes fierce when he is told that Nord Stream has to operate only under EU rules.”

Mr Vitrenko warned that this could have “catastrophic” consequences, and not just for the price of gas.

He added: “The worst-case scenario is that there could be no gas flowing through Ukraine, it would allow him to blackmail Ukraine so could lead to either a full-scale war.

“For example, forget about Crimea, take back Donbass, the occupied regions, but on Putin’s terms, and basically the whole of Ukraine would become part of the Russian world.”

Back in 2014, Russian troops took control of Crimea before annexing the peninsula after the region voted to join the Russian Federation in a disputed local referendum.

It resulted in the ongoing conflict in Donbass, eastern Ukraine, between Russian-backed separatist forces and the Ukrainian military, causing more than 14,000 deaths and 24,000 injuries.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky held a summit with envoys from more than 40 countries in August to call for the reclamation of Russia-annexed Crimea.

Tensions are therefore already high and Mr Putin’s weaponization of the pipeline threatens to increase the likelihood of more conflict.

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Mr Vitrenko also warned that the pipeline could increase Mr Putin’s influence in the region and could limit the power of the West.

He said: “It will send a message to other countries in the region that Putin is strong and the West is weak, so that’s why you have to negotiate with Putin because again he shows his might.”

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