MOSCOW, November 9 (Itar-Tass) — On Tuesday, the Nord Stream pipeline was launched in the German town of Lubmin, the first gas pipeline to Europe bypassing Ukraine and Belarus. Taking part in the opening ceremony were Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The "Novye Izvestia" reminds that Nord Stream had linked the Russian coast of the Baltic Sea in Portovaya Bay near Vyborg with the town of Lumbin on the German coast of the Baltic Sea. The 1,224-kilometer gas pipeline whose construction began in April 2010, consists of two parallel pipelines with a capacity of 27.5 billion cubic meters each. The first of the two pipelines was commissioned on Tuesday. The construction of the second pipeline will be completed in late 2012. As present, it is 70-percent ready. After completion of the project, Russia will be able to supply though Nord Stream 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Europe annually.
The commissioning of Nord Stream is an extremely unpleasant piece of news for Ukraine, which risks losing part of its revenue from the transit of Russian gas to Europe, the "Kommersant" writes. Last year, the Ukrainian gas transportation system pumped 95.4 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas to Europe, i.e. two-thirds of Gazprom's exports to countries outside of the former Soviet Union. Ukraine's Naftogaz earned 1.3 billion dollars of net profits on transit. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich called Russia's plans to build Nord Stream and South Stream "the shells that are exploding ever closer."
Gazprom Export director Alexander Medvedev underlined on Tuesday that transit had decreased through Ukraine. Gas pumping through Belarus (some 30 billion cubic meters a year) which handed over its gas transportation system under Gazprom's will not be affected. If Russia does not boost gas deliveries to Europe, Ukraine will lose more than one quarter of its previous transit revenue.
In the "Kommersant"'s opinion, the commissioning of the gas pipeline has not resulted in a quick thaw in Europe-Russia relations. On Tuesday, Guenter Ettinger, whom Russia very nearly regards as Gazprom's chief opponent in Europe, stressed despite all the praises of Nord Stream that cultural differences between Russia an the European Union continued to persist which meant that Europe would be looking for ways to reduce the dependence on Russian natural gas supplies, in the first case by turning to Asia.
The "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" reminds that Nord Stream had been a topical international theme for years. Practically everybody in Ukraine and Baltic states voiced doubts, suspicions and protests. Russia had to patiently explain to the parties concerned the important significance of the project for energy supply to Europe.
European newspapers paid no attention to the functions marking the launching of Nord Stream, the "RBK Daily" complains. Europe's attitude toward this landmark event was very calm. Not a single German newspaper put the pipeline commissioning news on the front page, preferring reports from Greece, which keeps dragging the European Union toward default, the Arab events and the scandal around the trial of two German hackers who had leaked unreleased songs of pop stars to the Internet.
Before the opening ceremony, Dmitry Medvedev met with his German colleague Christian Wulff, the "Moskovsky Komsomolets" underlines. The Russian leader raised the issue of the cancellation of visa regime. The answer of his German partner was not encouraging: it is not possible to achieve the cancellation of the visa regime in the near future. Wulff believes that Russia and Europe must develop common value views first. According to him, the conditions for it are the development of law-government state and eradication of corruption and excessive red tape of which German investors had complained.