Putin urges Denmark to ignore U.S. pressure over Nord Stream 2

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin urged Denmark on Wednesday to ignore U.S. pressure and “show it has sovereignty” by allowing the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to go through its territory.

FILE PHOTO: A worker puts a cap to a pipe at the construction site of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, near the town of Kingisepp, Leningrad region, Russia, June 5, 2019. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov/File Photo

He said it would cost Moscow more money if it had to bypass Denmark but it would complete construction of the pipeline from Russia to Germany anyway.

Speaking at an energy conference in the Russian capital, Putin also said Moscow was ready to extend its current gas contract with Ukraine for a short time if necessary and would be ready to work with Kiev under European Union gas regulations.

The Nord Stream 2 project would double the capacity of the existing Nord Stream pipeline from Russia to Germany and allow Russia to bypass Ukraine, currently its main transit route for European sales.

Denmark has yet to approve the pipeline which is already under construction and has almost reached the Danish border.

Washington says the project would strengthen Russia’s economic grip on Europe and a U.S. Senate committee passed a bill in July to place sanctions on companies and individuals involved in its construction.

“Denmark is a small country which has come under strong pressure and it is up to it whether or not to assert its independence and show it has sovereignty,” Putin said.

“If they do not (do so), there are other routes,” he added. “It would cost more and hold us up a bit, but I think the project will be completed (anyway).”

Russia has traditionally shipped the bulk of its gas supplies to Europe through Ukraine, but tensions over the terms of shipping and the sale price for Ukraine itself have routinely disrupted supplies.

Russia’s annexation of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 has further soured ties with Kiev, although gas transit has continued.

Putin said Moscow was ready to negotiate a new contract with Ukraine if it completes the implementation of European energy regulations this year.

Otherwise, he said, Moscow could simply sign a short-term extension of the existing contract. Nord Stream 2 declined to comment on any routes which may help to bypass Denmark.

Additional reporting by Darya Korsunskaya and Maria Grabar; Writing by Tom Balmforth/Olzhas Auyezov; editing by Timothy Heritage