Germany’s stance on the Navalny case should have no bearing on the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told Bild.
“Business relationships and business projects that have existed for decades are one thing and serious human rights violations and our reactions to them are another,” he said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also warned against linking the two issues on Friday.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz rejected calls to abandon the Nord Stream 2 pipeline construction after a Russian court jailed opposition activist Alexey Navalny for 3.5 years for violating probation terms.
"I welcome the German federal government’s decision to stand by Nord Stream 2," Kurz said in an interview with the Welt am Sonntag newspaper, adding that the gas pipeline project would benefit many EU countries.
On 23 and 31 January, several unauthorised rallies in support of vlogger Navalny rocked Russia. He recently returned to Russia from Germany where he was being treated after allegedly being poisoned with Novichok.
Meanwhile, three diplomats from Germany, Poland, and Sweden who took part in the illegal protests in Russia have beemn expelled from the country.
The protests resumed on 2 February after Navalny was imprisoned for violating probation terms linked to an embezzlement conviction.
The previous US administration urged the EU to buy American liquefied natural gas instead of Russian pipeline gas. The bloc ignored the call and proceeded with the construction of the joint project with Russia – Washington then threatened to impose sanctions against some of the contractors working on the pipeline. The US also passed legislation ordering sanctions against any entity helping to build the project.
President Joe Biden has described the pipeline as a "bad deal for Europe," and his administration is expected to impose further sanctions.