EU-Russia relations at breaking point as Kremlin unleashes ‘geopolitical weapon’ on Europe

The Council of Permanent Representatives of the EU member states at the level of ambassadors (COREPER) on Wednesday supported the decision to extend sanctions for actions undermining the sovereignty of Ukraine for the next six months. First Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzheppar wrote on Twitter: “We welcome the decision of the EU Permanent Representatives Committee to extend for the next six months, until March 15, 2022, the EU’s personal sanctions against 177 individuals and 48 legal entities in connection with their actions that undermine/threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and independence of Ukraine.”

Asset freezes and travel restrictions, part of a package of sanctions, were scheduled to be lifted today, but an extension could make Mr Putin’s control of gas supplies in Europe even tighter as a form of retaliation.

The restriction of gas flowing through pipelines from Russia was an attempt by the Russian President to force Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, from implementing EU law across the Nord Stream 2 pipeline system.

The pipeline, which travels through the Baltic Sea, will transport natural gas from Russia into Germany, bypassing Poland and Ukraine.

Gazprom, the state-owned company that built the pipeline, announced construction was complete on September 10, and German regulators have four months to provide certification for commercial flows to begin.

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But as it nears that deadline, tensions between Russia and the EU have continued to soar, with Putin being blamed for rising gas prices.

The situation has led experts to fear a full-blown gas crisis could engulf the bloc this winter.

Now, with the possibility of extended sanctions for Russian aggression in Ukraine, Mr Putin could continue to use the pipeline as a weapon.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been vocal about his fears about the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

Some of those became extended until June 23, 2022.

But the specific measures, including asset freezes and travel restrictions, were intended to be lifted today.

Berlin has also threatened Russia with sanctions if it uses Nord Stream 2 as a weapon.

Angela Merkel warned Vladimir Putin of this last August, but with a possible energy crisis this winter and gas prices soaring to record levels, further sanctions on Russia might not be so wise.


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