Russian President Vladimir Putin is confident the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Europe will be completed, despite US sanctions against the project.
Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on Thursday, Putin said: “I think we will be able to finish the job."
Putin said the operator has yet to lay the remaining 160 kilometres of two lines of the pipeline in Denmark’s maritime sector, plus another five kilometres off Germany.
The Russian leader also revealed that he hopes US President-elect Joe Biden will not interfere with the implementation of the project.
“I hope the new [US] administration will treat its partners and its allies with respect, will not insist that they neglect their national interests and will return to fair competition [in the global energy market],” he said.
Putin and top Russian government officials have repeatedly labelled US and European sanctions against the country and its state companies as attempts to undermine Russia's economic stance on global markets, rather than as punishment for Russia's annexation of the Crimea Peninsula from Ukraine.
Earlier this month, operator Nord Stream 2 started pipelay work on the short segment of the pipeline route in shallow waters in Germany, aiming to put over five kilometres of heavy cement-coated pipe on the sea bed using the pipelay barge Fortuna.
The operation is being done using solely Russian-owned vessels following the refusal of German and other European contractors to work for the project because of the US sanctions.
The Fortuna has recently changed ownership once again in an apparent attempt to further complicate any possible sanctions against its true operator.
Fortuna owner switches again
Moscow business daily RBK has revealed that ownership of the vessel is now with privately held firm KVT-Rus, which is incorporated in Moscow. The company reported zero revenues last year, according to data from the country’s Tax Inspectorate.
Earlier this year, the previous operator of Fortuna, Russian major building contractor MRTS, said that it had never owned the barge and only chartered it from a Hong Kong-based company.
According to a Russian ship register, the Fortuna was reported to be in hands of another obscure Russian company, Universalnaya Transportnaya Gruppa, before changing owners to KVT-Rus.
Although Nord Stream 2 has upgraded another pipelaying vessel, the Akademik Chersky, to work on laying the pipeline in Danish waters, the Fortuna is understood to be technically capable of continuing laying the pipe in deeper waters off Denmark.