Ukraine envoy warns Canada that waiver for Gazprom will drag out Putin’s war

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“We need sanctions to deprive Russia from [the] economic ability to continue the war,” Kovaliv said.

The House foreign affairs committee has interrupted its summer hiatus to study the Trudeau government’s decision to waive sanctions for six Gazprom Nord Stream 1 pipeline turbines.

The machines were being serviced at Siemens Canada’s Montréal facility at the time measures against Russia’s oil and gas sector were announced in March. Canada has since been under pressure from Germany to send them back against growing energy security concerns as Europe plans to cut imports of Russian oil by 90 percent before the end of the year.

There was concern Russia would use the stranded turbines as another excuse to slash gas flow to Germany last month during Gazprom’s annual maintenance of the Nord Stream pipeline.

Sabine Sparwasser, Germany’s ambassador to Canada, told the committee that allies of Ukraine should consider the turbine’s return a victory. “We would have lost significantly in the disinformation war if that turbine had not been able to be delivered right now,” Sparwasser said.

The turbine is now in the western German city of Mülheim an der Ruhr.

But Gazprom has announced it won’t be picking it up because Canadian, European Union and United Kingdom sanctions prevent them from doing so.

“This turbine sits in Germany,” Sparwasser told the House committee. “It is very clear that it was an excuse, it was a pretext because Gazprom is not picking it up and they’re inventing very strange excuses for not doing it.”

Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited the site where the turbine is being held this week. Standing in front of the massive machine, he used the photo opportunity to poke holes in Russia’s argument that western sanctions are blocking the delivery of essential equipment to keep gas flowing in the Russia-Germany pipeline.

“The turbine is there, it can be delivered. All someone has to do is say I want it, and it will be there very quickly,” Scholz told reporters Wednesday.

“The turbine was supposed to be a measure that would allow more gas to flow,” Sparwasser said. She suggested officials weren’t sure if Canada returning the turbine would actually work to get Gazprom to increase gas deliveries, she said.

“We were testing what would happen.”

After Canada shipped the turbine in mid-July, the Russian gas giant announced a further cut in flow through the Nord Stream pipeline.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson were less candid when they appeared before committee members on Thursday afternoon. They stressed the decision had been a difficult one informed by German and Ukrainian officials.

The Trudeau Cabinet ministers argued that the move exposed Russia’s “bluff.”

Conservative MP James Bezan said they’d been “outplayed and out-maneuvered” by Putin.

Opposition politicians said the turbines issue should never have been used as a litmus test since Russian President Vladimir Putin has been clear he wants to fray relations among western countries by immobilizing their economies.

Ottawa remains under pressure from Ukraine, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and opposition parties to revoke the sanctions waiver for the machines.

With one turbine now in Germany, it’s unclear what Russia will do next.

The war in Ukraine has established energy security as a central plank in Canada’s foreign policy — and Ottawa has become a sudden destination for influential world leaders.

Annalena Baerbock, Germany’s foreign minister, was in Montréal Wednesday for public events and bilateral discussions with Joly.

Scholz has plans to travel to Canada this month to discuss LNG, hydrogen and longer term energy opportunities between the two countries.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is expected to visit in September.


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Zi-Ann Lum

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