Ukraine decries Nord Stream 2 approval, says it weakens Europe

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KIEV (Reuters) - Denmark’s decision to approve the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, designed by Moscow to bypass Ukraine, strengthens Russia and weakens Europe, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Thursday.

Ukraine’s fragile economy is at risk of losing billions of dollars in transit fees if Moscow deprives it of Russian gas transit to Europe. Russia and Ukraine, which have been at loggerheads since Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014.

Moscow is building new pipelines to Europe, such as Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream, to bypass Ukraine, which is now a major route for Europe’s Russian gas supplies. Following the completion of the new pipelines, Russian gas transit via Ukraine will shrink to a trickle.

On Wednesday, Denmark gave its approval for the construction of Nord Stream 2 in a crucial boost for the pipeline, welcomed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“This is a geopolitical issue, this strengthen Russia and weakens Europe,” Zelenskiy told a joint briefing with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Kiev.

The United States and several east European, Nordic and Baltic countries have also expressed concern that the Gazprom-led GAZP.MM 1,230km (765 mile) pipeline from Russia to Germany will increase Europe's reliance on Russian gas.

The European Commission said its position on Nord Stream 2 had not changed after Denmark’s approval and that the pipeline should be dealt with in line with European regulations.

“If it is built it will have to operate in a transparent and non-discriminatory way with appropriate degree of regulatory oversight implying that key principle of international and European legislation,” the EU said.

The pipeline would double the existing annual capacity of Nord Stream to 110 billion cubic metres, more than 50% of Russia’s total gas exports to Europe.

Reporting by Pavel Polityuk in Kiev and Marine Strauss; in Brussels; Writing by Matthias Williams and Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by David Goodman and David Evans