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Talks with Russia must prioritize Nord Stream 2 to deter Putin says Ukraine’s Naftogaz CEO

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The chief executive of Ukrainian state energy company Naftogaz said it is absurd for Nord Stream 2 not to be among the top priorities of international talks with the Kremlin, repeating his call for further sanctions on the gas pipeline to deter another Russian incursion, according to CNBC.

The comments made by Yuriy Vitrenko come shortly after a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council on Wednesday. It was the second high-level meeting this week between Western officials and Russia after high-profile talks between the U.S. and Kremlin officials on Monday. A further meeting is taking place at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Vienna Thursday.

Talks are aimed to try to defuse a crisis triggered by the mass gathering of Russian troops near Ukraine, although the way forward remains unclear, and Moscow has warned the situation is “very dangerous.”

Vitrenko told CNBC on Thursday in Kyiv that he had been surprised to see that Nord Stream 2 did not appear to be a central part of the discussions.

“It is really difficult to understand how come it can be unnoticed or it bears no consequences? That is something that should come first, so first they should sanction Nord Stream 2. They should show again their firm stance to Putin,” Vitrenko said.

“And, for example, if somebody wants to discuss some further actions if there is further aggression on the Russian side, they should be talking about Nord Stream 1. So, I’m not saying that Nord Stream 2 is the only thing that should be on the agenda, but it should come first just to show that the West are serious.”

Vitrenko stated that a package of additional sanctions should then be prepared if Russia is to invade Ukraine.

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is not yet operational, is designed to deliver Russian gas directly to Germany via the Baltic Sea, bypassing Ukraine and Poland. The $11 billion project is owned by Russia’s state-backed energy company Gazprom and seeks to double the existing capacity of Nord Stream 1.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, leading the U.S. delegation at the 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 perspective, it’s very hard to see gas flowing through the pipeline or for it to become operational if Russia renews its aggression on Ukraine,” Sherman said shortly after the NATO-Russia Council.

German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht has cautioned against drawing a link between Nord Stream 2 and the heightened tensions between Russia and its neighbor of Ukraine.