Gas pipelines on schedule, Russia says

MOSCOW – Concerns over Russian-backed natural gas pipelines to Europe will not hurt construction because of Moscow’s commitment to the energy sector, officials said.

Expanding the natural gas transit system in Europe received renewed focus following a disruptive gas row between Kiev and Moscow that left European customers without 20 percent of their Russian natural gas supplies.

Russia has pushed for its Nord Stream gas pipeline to Germany through the Baltic Sea and its South Stream gas pipeline to Italy as alternatives that go around politically sensitive Ukraine.

Russian Deputy Premier Igor Sechin told state-owned television the global economic crisis has no impact on the planned construction for either project, the Kiev Post reports.

“All major infrastructure projects, including Nord Stream and South Stream, are being implemented according to plan,” he said.

Critics of Nord Stream have sounded alarm bells over the potential ecological impact that construction in the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea may have for littoral states. Sechin discounted those concerns, noting that preparations show energy diversification is a top priority for the region.

“Setbacks in energy shipments to Europe in January indicate that diversification is a must,” he said.

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