Germany has halted the approval of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the country has ordered the withdrawal of a key document needed for certification of the pipeline from Russia.
It comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops into eastern Ukraine.
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The pipeline bringing natural gas from Russia to Germany has long been criticised by the United States and some European countries who argue that it increases Europe’s reliance on Russian energy supplies.
Mr Scholz said his government had decided to “reassess” the certification of the pipeline, which hasn’t begun operating yet, in light of the latest developments.
He had previously been hesitant about committing the pipeline to any sanctions package, despite longstanding pressure from Ukrainian officials.
EU to decide on sanctions
Foreign ministers from EU countries are meeting today to make a decision about what sanctions to impose, according to the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.
“We must act quickly … that means this afternoon,” he said.
The measures will be tough but incremental, EU ministers said.
“We’ve got to ensure that whatever happens, Russia will feel the pain … to make sure Russia has absolutely no incentive to go further,” said Irish EU affairs minister Thomas Byrne.
A senior EU diplomat said there was “a whole escalation ladder, starting with Russian individuals and moving up to finance, trade, and eventually energy”, adding: “A lot is possible.”
Diplomats have said sanctions could target Russian oligarchs, a ban on EU transactions with private Russian banks and cutting all Russian banks from the SWIFT network that is the lifeblood of international money transfers.
US and UK set to impose sanctions
The White House also said the US would announce fresh sanctions on Tuesday.
President Joe Biden already signed an executive order prohibiting “new investment, trade, and financing by US persons to, from, or in” the two breakaway regions.
The order will “also provide authority to impose sanctions on any person determined to operate in those areas of Ukraine”. And there will be further measures separate from sanctions that the US and its allies have been preparing if Russia invades Ukraine.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Mr Putin has broken international law and said the UK will hit Russia with a “first barrage” of sanctions which he will outline later today.
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In a phone call with Ukraine’s president, Mr Johnson “said he would explore sending further defensive support to Ukraine, at the request of the Ukrainian government” – but Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the UK would not deploy troops to the country.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said his country would discuss possible “severe actions”, including sanctions, with the international community, while Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said “the moment that other countries put in place strong and severe sanctions on Russia, we will be in lockstep with them and we will be moving just as quickly.”
What’s Russia’s response?
The Kremlin said Russia is still open to diplomacy and further talks with the US.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed the sanctions as a predictable move.
“Our European, American, British colleagues will not stop and will not calm down until they have exhausted all their possibilities for the so-called ‘punishment of Russia’,” he said.
“They are already threatening us with all manner of sanctions or, as they say now, ‘the mother of all sanctions’.
“Well, we’re used to it. We know that sanctions will be imposed anyway, in any case. With or without reason.”