The operator of the controversial $12 billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline says the final section of the link has been welded into place.
The Russian pipelaying vessel Fortuna welded the last of the double pipeline on to a stretch of the pipeline in German waters, the project's operator said, adding this would now need to be welded to a long section in Danish waters to complete the project.
"The next step will be the implementation of docking of the section of the gas pipeline running from the coast of Germany, with the section stretching from the waters of Denmark, using the over-water method," Nord Stream 2 said in a press statement on September 6.
The Baltic subsea link will double the gas export capacity of its operator, Russia's state-owned energy giant Gazprom, supplying as many as 26 million Western European households with natural gas.
That increase has worried the United States, Ukraine, and others that Europe will become too dependent on Russia for energy supplies, while also denying Kyiv, which has battled with Russia over gas supplies and transit fees for nearly two decades.
Kyiv stands to lose as much as $2 billion a year in fees should the Kremlin reroute all Russian natural gas bound for Europe that currently transits Ukraine through the new pipeline.
Nord Stream 2 still needs to be certified and approved for use. Certification is expected to take up to four months but will only start once all paperwork is complete, which entails checks by the German Economy Ministry and Gazprom.
Nord Stream said in its statement that it hopes to have the pipeline in operation by the end of the year.
With reporting by Reuters and dpa
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