SASSNITZ, Germany, Sept 11 (Reuters) - The Nord Stream 2
pipeline from Russia to Germany should not be used to punish
Moscow over the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, the
leader of the German state where the pipeline is due to come
ashore said on Friday.
The Kremlin has been facing calls from the West for strong
action to punish Russia unless it provides an explanation for
what Berlin has called an attempt to murder Navalny.
The German government this week questioned the pipeline,
which it previously backed. Revoking support for the project,
set to open next year, would amount to the most drastic economic
penalty the West has imposed on Russia since the Soviet era.
Manuela Schwesig, premier of the north eastern German state
of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, said the pipeline should not be used
"as a punitive means".
"The Baltic Sea pipeline is not a Russian project, the
Baltic Sea pipeline does not just serve Russian interests," she
told reporters at the German port of Mukran on the Baltic Sea.
"The Baltic Sea pipeline is above all in the interests of
Germany and western Europe as we want to achieve the energy
transformation," she added.
The project is more than 90% complete, scheduled to operate
from early 2021 and would double the capacity of the existing
Nord Stream 1 pipeline from Russia to Germany, Europe's largest
Schwesig criticised the idea of importing U.S. fracking gas
as an alternative: "Just why anyone thinks that U.S. fracking
gas should be cleaner and cheaper when it has to be shipped over
here ... I don't know."
Chancellor Angela Merkel, who had until now been unwavering
in her support for Nord Stream 2, wants to agree a response to
the affair with Germany's European Union partners and is first
awaiting an explanation from Russia.
(Reporting by Reuters TV
Writing by Paul Carrel
Editing by Louise Heavens)