BERLIN, Sept 3 - Pressure mounted on German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday to reconsider the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will take gas from Russia to Germany, after she said Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny had been poisoned with a Soviet-style nerve agent, Reuters reported.
Moscow has denied involvement and said the West should not leap to hasty conclusions.
Western countries have condemned the attack and many German politicians want a tough response.
“We must pursue hard politics, we must respond with the only language (Russian President Vladimir) Putin understands - that is gas sales,” Norbert Roettgen, the conservative head of Germany’s parliamentary foreign affairs committee, said on Thursday.
Late on Wednesday he had said completion of Nord Stream 2 “would be the maximum confirmation and encouragement for Putin to continue this kind of politics”.
Nord Stream 2 will double the capacity of the existing Nord Stream 1 pipeline from Russia to Germany and may help Moscow cut gas supplies via Ukraine cutting its gas transit revenue.
Led by Russia’s Gazprom with Western partners, the project is more than 90% completed and scheduled to operate from early 2021, which could make it hard to stop.
The project has split the European Union, with some members saying it will undermine the traditional gas transit state, Ukraine and increase the bloc’s energy reliance on Russia.
The United States, keen to increase liquefied natural gas (LNG) sales to Europe, also opposes the pipeline and has targeted some companies involved with sanctions.
It is not clear Merkel, who has been unwavering in her support for the project, will bow to pressure.
Showing she was in no hurry to act, she said on Thursday any response depended on Russia’s behavior.
She said last week the Navalny case should not be linked to the pipeline, which is backed by Uniper, Wintershall DEA, Royal Dutch Shell, Engie and OMV.
Prominent security analysts are also making the case for a tough stance.
“If we want to send a clear message to Moscow with our partners, then economic relations must be on the agenda and that means the Nord Stream 2 project must not be left out,” Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference and a former ambassador to Washington, said. (rt/ez)