Russia's Putin launches Nord Stream pipeline
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin launched the Nord Stream pipeline, designed to bring Russian natural gas to Germany via the bed of the Baltic Sea and to avoid shipments through central Europe.
After gas fills the pipeline, Russia will start gas shipments in Europe. The first pipeline -- with an annual capacity of 27.5 bn cm -- will be ready for shipments by the beginning of October.
The $ 11 bn Nord Stream project, owned 51 % by Russia's Gazprom gas export monopoly and 15.5 % each by Germany's E.ON Ruhrgas and BASF-Wintershall, includes two roughly parallel pipelines with an overall annual capacity of 55 bn cm.
The pipeline, which would bypass Ukraine, Belarus, Poland and other transit energy states, is expected to be completed in 2012.
The launch of Nord Stream will deprive Ukraine, which currently in a row with Russia over the gas price, of its exclusive transit rights, Putin said.
"Ukraine is our old and traditional partner. As any transit country it has the temptation to benefit from its transit position. Now this exclusive right disappears. Our relations will become more civilized," Putin told.