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Germany still deliberating Nord Stream 2 sanctions after Navalny poisoning

The Russian pipe laying vessel Akademik Cherskiy to complete the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project is moored in the port of Mukran on the island of Rügen, north eastern Germany on September 7, 2020. - German Chancellor Angela Merkel will not rule out consequences for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project if Russia fails to thoroughly investigate the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, her spokesman said on September 7, 2020. (Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP) (Photo by ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images)
The Russian pipe laying vessel Akademik Cherskiy moored in the port of Mukran, as calls grow for Germany to halt Nord Stream 2. Photo: Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images

The German government has still not reached a decision regarding any potential sanctions on the Russian natural gas pipeline in the wake of the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Berlin has been under increasing pressure to call a halt to the €10bn (£9bn, $12bn) Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline running from Russia to the German coast, after Navalny, a critic of president Vladimir Putin was poisoned by the Russian nerve agent Novichok last month.

Navalny was airlifted to Berlin’s Charité hospital for treatment last month. He was taken out of an induced coma and is showing signs of responsiveness this week, doctors said on Monday (7 September).

Last week, chancellor Angela Merkel said in a press conference that there was “unequivocal evidence” that Navalny had been poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent, describing it as “attempted murder by poison of one of Russia's leading opposition members.”

Since then, pressure has increased on Merkel from lawmakers, including from her party, the Christian Democrats, to take a strong stand against the Kremlin by killing the project.

Merkel’s spokesman said on Monday that the chancellor had not ruled out sanctions on Nord Stream 2.

Today, Merkel’s deputy spokesperson said that the German government was still awaiting information, or an explanation, from Russia, and was still discussing a suitable joint-response with its EU and Nato partners.

READ MORE: Calls grow for Germany to halt Nord Stream 2 after Putin opponent poisoned

Earlier on Wednesday, Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Germany must halt construction on the project, as it “strengthens Russia's power, helps president Putin to build a military power, helps to intimidate other nations.”

"We have Germany on our western border without which this project does not make sense,” Morawiecki told public radio. “I call on them to see what is happening in Belarus, what is happening in Ukraine, how much risk the completion of this project will generate in Ukraine.”

The pipeline, running from Narva Bay in Russia to Lubmin in the German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, is about 160km (99 miles) out of a total of 1,200km away from the German coast, and completion.

08 September 2020, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Mukran: A special vehicle transports a pipe for the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline to a storage yard at the port of Mukran on the island of Rügen. Special ships are currently being prepared in the port for use in the further construction of the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea pipeline. Photo: Jens Büttner/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa (Photo by Jens Büttner/picture alliance via Getty Images)
A vehicle transports a pipe for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to a storage yard at the port of Mukran on Rügen island. Photo: Jens Büttner/picture alliance via Getty Images

Nord Stream 2 has repeatedly come under attack from US president Donald Trump, who vowed sanctions against companies and investors involved in the project. Trump has warned it will make Western Europe to too dependent on Russian energy, but he is also keen to sell more US Liquefied Natural Gas into Europe.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo said in July this year that companies involved could face sanctions under a revision to the 2017 CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions) law.

"It’s a clear warning to companies — aiding and abetting Russia’s malign influence projects will not be tolerated,” Pompeo said. “Get out now or risk the consequences.”

Nord Stream 2 is majority owned by Russian state energy firm Gazprom. Wintershall, Uniper (UN01.DE), and Royal Dutch Shell (RDS-A) are some of the other key companies involved.

Uniper said its first-half report in August that “with the US intensifying their efforts on targeted sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 project, the probability of a delay or even non-completion of the pipeline is increasing.”