The German government is not ruling out freezing the Nord Stream 2 project over the alleged poisoning of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has said.
“We will put all options on the table and make a decision at the appropriate time. Russia, by taking part in the investigation, can contribute to making it so that such a decision is not made,” Maas said, speaking to ZDF on Thursday evening.
Suggesting that the conflict over Navalny was not a conflict between Germany and Russia, but an issue for the international community, Maas said he was “100 percent certain” that Navalny was poisoned with the so-called ‘Novichok’ neurotoxin, and that “the poison was found not only in his body but also on his body.”
The foreign minister added that Berlin has asked the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to crosscheck its findings, and said the European Union, the NATO alliance and the G7 group of nations would have to “draw appropriate and effective conclusions” on the basis of its work.
Gregor Gysi, foreign policy spokesman for Die Linke’s parliamentary group, appeared on ZDF alongside Maas and expressed disagreement with the foreign minister’s conclusions, stressing that clarification was needed before serious accusations against Russia could be made, and adding that he found it illogical for the Kremlin to agree to transfer Navalny to Germany if it really did ‘poison’ him.
The opposition politician also pointed out that the so-called Novichok agent was possessed by other intelligence agencies apart from Russia.
Also Thursday, Die Linke’s Klaus Ernst, head of the Bundestag’s Committee on Economic Affairs and Energy, told RT Deutsch that “freezing the construction of Nord Stream 2” was “definitely not in the German interest,” and emphasized that the energy infrastructure project was aimed at helping to ensure German and European energy security.
Nord Stream 2 is a $10.5 billion joint venture between Russia’s Gazprom, Germany’s Uniper and Wintershall, Austria’s OMV, France’s Engie, and UK/Dutch energy conglomerate Royal Dutch Shell. The 1,230 km pipeline, whose construction was nearly completed late last year before the US introduced sanctions against a key contractor, envisions doubling the existing 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year capacity of the Nord Stream network. Once completed, it will provide Germany with gas supplies, and turn the central European nation into a major energy hub.
Berlin announced the possibility of freezing, sanctioning or otherwise acting against the project earlier this week amid pressure from lawmakers and Germany’s US and European allies to ‘punish’ Russia for Navalny’s alleged poisoning. Other politicians have warned against doing so, however, saying a thorough investigation was required, and asking Berlin to consider the economic consequences of halting the project. Less than a day before the German military released its conclusion that Navalny had been ‘poisoned’ by a “a Novichok-class substance,” Merkel had assured Washington that Nord Stream 2 would be completed regardless of any new US sanctions threats.
Russia has vocally rejected Berlin’s ‘poisoning’ claims, pointing out that no poison was detected in the opposition figure’s system before his transfer to Germany, and slamming the German government for its failure to provide Moscow with any evidence to back up its allegations. Moscow has also asked Berlin why the Russian doctors who saved Navalny’s life after he fell ill in Siberia have not been kept appraised of his condition following his transfer to a clinic in Berlin.
Navalny fell ill on August 20 during a flight to Moscow from the Siberian city of Tomsk, prompting the commercial plane carrying him to make an emergency landing in Omsk, another Siberian city. There, doctors worked for two days to stabilize his condition and put him in a medically-induced coma. No poison was found in the politician’s system, and doctors diagnosing him concluded that he may have suffered a catastrophic drop in blood sugar levels due to a metabolic disorder. On August 22, a chartered flight took Navalny to Germany. On Monday, German doctors announced that his condition had improved and he had come out of a coma.