Germany halted the certification of the controversial Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline Tuesday after Russia recognized two separatist-held regions of Ukraine as independent states and dispatched “peacekeeping” forces to the region.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz described Monday’s announcement by Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “serious break of international law.”
“Now it’s up to the international community to react to this one-sided, incomprehensible and unjustified action by the Russian president,” Scholz said, adding that Berlin needed to “send a clear signal to Moscow that such actions won’t remain without consequences.”
Germany previously resisted suspending the pipeline, which was completed in September and would transport fuel directly from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea – depriving the Kyiv government of lucrative transit fees.
Earlier this month, President Biden vowed to penalize Russia by blocking the pipeline in the event of a renewed invasion of Ukraine.
“If Russia invades — that means tanks or troops crossing the border of Ukraine, again — then there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2,” Biden said at a Feb. 7 press conference with Scholz.
At the time, the German chancellor said he and Biden were “absolutely united” about the issue, but pointedly refused to say the words “Nord Stream 2.”
“@POTUS made clear that if Russia invaded Ukraine, we would act with Germany to ensure Nord Stream 2 does not move forward,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted Tuesday. “We have been in close consultations with Germany overnight and welcome their announcement. We will be following up with our own measures today.”
On Monday night, Putin announced that Russia recognized the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic as independent states and ordered Moscow’s forces to perform “peacekeeping functions,” potentially laying the groundwork for a full-scale invasion.
On Tuesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russian recognition of the rebel regions extended to territory currently held by Ukraine.
Since late last week, eastern Ukraine has seen increased shelling as well as fresh reports of tanks and military hardware.
In the last 24 hours, Ukrainian officials say two soldiers have been killed and 12 have been wounded in attacks by pro-Russian separatists.
Over the weekend, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged Western nations to impose sanctions against Russia before any incursion could take place.
“You’re telling me that it’s 100% that the war will start in a couple of days. Then what [are you] waiting for?” he told reporters at the Munich Security Conference in Germany. “We don’t need your sanctions after the bombardment will happen, and after our country will be fired at or after we will have no borders or after we will have no economy or parts of our country will be occupied. Why would we need those sanctions then?”