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US bill to counter Russian energy influence 'blatant protectionism' — upper house speaker

Valentina Matviyenko said that if enacted, the draft law won't have "slightest impact" on economic interests of Russia due to the fact that its energy cooperation with Europe is "mutually beneficial"

MOSCOW, March 27. /TASS/. The bill on countering Russia’s energy influence passed by the House of Representatives of the US Congress is blatant protectionism, and an attempt to limit the economic and energy sovereignty of Europe, Russian Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko told reporters on Wednesday.

"I would give another name to that bill. It should be named ‘On setting stage for extra supplies of shale and other gas to Europe’. That is blatant protectionism, willful breach of international trade rules, WTO rules, that is an attempt to limit economic and energy sovereignty of Europe," she said.

"I am confident that the leaders of European states will not go against the interests of their countries, and the bill will have no force," the upper house speaker added.

Matviyenko stressed that if enacted, the draft law "will not have slightest impact on economic interests of the Russian Federation" due to the fact that its "energy cooperation with Europe and other states is mutually beneficial."

She considers the bill to be Washington’s "attempt to foist its more expensive gas on Europe and limit competition on that market."

"The bill has not been adopted by the Senate and signed by US President (Donald) Trump yet. A chance remains that common sense will prevail, but only a chance," Matviyenko added.

The House of Representatives of the US Congress voted on March 26 for the bill on assisting Central and Eastern European countries to diversify energy supplies sources for countering Russia’s influence, with 391 and 24 congressmen voting for and against the bill, respectively. The bill must be passed by the Senate and then be signed by the President to become law.

The authors of the draft law suggest that it is necessary for the US to assist "Central and Eastern European countries to reduce their dependence on energy resources from countries that use energy dependence for undue political influence, such as the Russian Federation, which has used natural gas to coerce, intimidate, and influence other countries." The Department of State and related agencies should support "the efforts of the European Commission and the governments of Central and Eastern European countries to increase their energy security."

US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said earlier at the CERAWeek conference in Houston that Washington does not want its European allies to be hooked on Russian gas following the construction of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline. He added that the US is going to help its friends secure diversity for their energy resources. Pompeo also emphasized the role of private companies in boosting US exports of liquefied natural gas to Poland.

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline is set to run from the Russian coast along the Baltic Sea bed to the German shore. Each of the pipeline’s two stretches will have a capacity of 27.5 bln cubic meters. The total cost of the project has been estimated at 9.5 bln euro. The pipeline is expected to come into service at the end of this year.