Naftogaz says NATO-Russia talks must prioritize Nord Stream 2

The CEO of Ukrainian state energy giant Naftogaz said it was absurd that Nord Stream 2 would not be a priority in international negotiations with the Kremlin, repeat his call Further sanctions on gas pipelines to deter another Russian incursion.

His comments came shortly after Wednesday’s NATO-Russia Council meeting. It was the second high-level meeting between Western officials and Russia this week, following high-profile talks between U.S. and Kremlin officials on Monday. Another meeting will be held at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on Thursday in Vienna.

Talks are going on trying to defuse the crisis Triggered by a massive build-up of Russian troops near Ukraine, Moscow has warned of a “very dangerous” situation, although the way forward remains unclear.

Naftogaz CEO Yuriy Vitrenko told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble in Kiev, Ukraine, on Thursday that he was surprised to see Nord Stream 2 not appearing to be a central part of the discussion.

“It’s really hard to understand why it’s being ignored or not taking any consequences? That should come first, so first they should sanction Nord Stream 2. They should show Putin their firm stance again,” Vitrenko said.

“For example, if someone wants to discuss some further action, if there is further aggression from the Russian side, they should talk about Nord Stream 1. So, I’m not saying Nord Stream 2 is the only one that should be on the agenda, but it should be at the top of the list. , just to show that the West is serious.”

If Russia were to invade Ukraine, it should prepare a package of additional sanctions, Witrenko said.

View of the pipeline system and closures of the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Pipeline gas terminal.

Stefan Sauer | Image Alliance | Getty Images

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is not yet operational, is Designed Bypassing Ukraine and Poland, direct Russian gas to Germany via the Baltic Sea. The $11 billion project, owned by Russian state-backed energy giant Gazprom, aims to double Nord Stream 1’s existing capacity.

Critics argue that the pipeline does not meet European climate goals, deepens the region’s reliance on Russian energy exports and is highly likely to strengthen Russian President Vladimir Putin’s economic and political influence in the region.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, who led a U.S. delegation to various talks this week, told reporters on Wednesday that Russia’s behavior toward Ukraine would play a key role in the fate of the gas pipeline.

“From our point of view, if Russia invades Ukraine again, it will be very difficult to see gas flowing through the pipeline or making it operational,” Sherman said. Say Shortly after the NATO-Russia Council.

However, German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht warned against linking Nord Stream 2 to heightened tensions between Russia and its neighbor Ukraine.

“We need to resolve this conflict, we need to resolve it in negotiations – this is an opportunity that we currently have and we should use it instead of linking up with projects that have nothing to do with this conflict,” Lambrecht told Germany Broadcaster RBB Thursday, Reuters reports.

Russia ‘very likely’ to invade Ukraine

Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, is the border between Russia and the rest of Europe, Have ambitions to join the EU It is even possible to become a member of the NATO Western military alliance.

Russia strongly opposes this prospect. The Kremlin demanded that the United States prevent further eastward expansion of NATO and not allow former Soviet states to join NATO.

Relations between Kiev and Russia plummeted in 2014 after Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine and backed pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Thursday reiterate The organization’s “Open Door Policy” and the right of each country to choose its own security arrangements. He said both Russia and NATO were ready to resume talks after a “very serious and direct exchange” on the situation in Ukraine and its environs.

Vitrenko told CNBC on Thursday that a Russian invasion of Ukraine seemed “very likely,” before adding that he still hoped the West would stand firm against any possible aggression.

“I can’t teach the U.S. government how to negotiate internationally again,” Witrenko said when asked whether U.S. officials should take a tougher stance toward their Russian counterparts.

“My personal experience with Putin is that if you’re ready to fight Russia, you can only get him to do the right thing,” he added. “So, they only understand the strong position in the negotiation, so unless you are ready to show that you have a strong position [and] You prepare in advance, you have no chance against Putin. “

— CNBC’s Holly Ellyatt contributed to this report.