Ukraine says lifting Nord Stream sanctions would be win for Russia

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday that lifting US-imposed sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline would represent a victory for Russia.

On Wednesday, the United States formally waived sanctions against Swiss-based Nord Stream 2 AG, the Russian-controlled builder of a major Russia-Germany gas pipeline.

The move was aimed at defusing tensions between Washington and Berlin over the $12-billion project, which Germany and other European countries see as crucial to securing long-term energy supplies.

But US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also said that the administration of Joe Biden would "continue to oppose the completion of this project," arguing it would weaken European energy security.

Russian neighbours Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic states have fiercely opposed the pipeline, fearing it will increase Moscow's political leverage in regional politics.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Zelensky said he was concerned that Washington could move to cancel the sanctions altogether.

"I think there is a big risk that they (Russia) might put pressure on the United States ... to lift the sanctions on Nord Stream," Zelensky said.

"This will be a major geopolitical victory for the Russian Federation," Zelensky said. "It would be a loss for the United States and President Biden personally."

The US waiver was announced as Moscow and Washington sought to defuse their biggest bi-lateral relations crisis in years.

On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Blinken met on the sidelines of an Arctic Council meeting in Reykjavik, the first high-profile encounter between the two countries under Biden's administration.

The two discussed Washington's proposal to organise a summit meeting between Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin, possibly in June.

"This is a positive signal," Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Thursday in reference to the US waiver.

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