Ukraine criticizes Canada over return of turbines for Russia-Germany pipeline

The Ukrainian government is calling on Canada to reconsider its decision to allow the supply of turbines from a Russian-European natural gas pipeline to Germany, as it sets a “dangerous precedent” when it comes to sanctions against the Russian regime.

Canadian Natural Services Secretary Jonathan Wilkinson announced on social media Saturday that turbines from the Nord Stream 1 pipeline — which supplies natural gas from Russia to Germany — that had been sent to Montreal for scheduled repairs may be returned.

In June, Siemens Energy said that Canadian sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine prevented the company from returning the turbines.

In his recent announcement, Wilkinson said turbine maker Siemens Canada would receive a “time-limited and revocable permit” to return the equipment — essentially giving it an exemption.

He said supplies were necessary to support “Europe’s ability to access reliable and affordable energy” as it tries to move away from reliance on Russian oil and gas. The government says it plans to return six turbines.

In a statement, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry and Energy Ministry expressed their “deep disappointment” over Canada’s decision on Sunday.

“This dangerous precedent violates international solidarity, goes against the rule of law and will have only one effect: it will reinforce the feeling of impunity in Moscow,” it read.

Leading up to Canada’s decision, German Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck had expressed concern that Russia could halt supplies of natural gas to Europe after the scheduled maintenance. The warning followed earlier cuts in natural gas flow from Russia to Germany, along with Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

While Gazprom, the Russian state energy giant, has attributed the reduction of natural gas to Germany through the pipeline to repairs in Canada, German leaders have cast doubt on the explanation of technical problems, instead characterizing it as a political move.

The Ukrainian government expressed similar concerns in its statement, saying the Russian threats amounted to “blackmail that has no technical justification”.

“Russia is able to continue supplying full gas to Germany without this turbine,” it said.

Germany, Europe’s largest economy, warned last month that it was in crisis over Russia’s decision to cut the amount of gas flowing through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline by 60 percent.

Alexandra Chyczij, president of the Ukrainian-Canadian Congress, expressed disappointment at Canada’s decision and said Ottawa is bowing to Russian threats to cut off gas supplies by complying with Germany’s request.

“Canada will not only violate its policy of isolating Russia, it will set a dangerous precedent that will lead to a weakening of the sanctions regime imposed on Russia,” Chyczij said in a statement.

“This decision will ensure that the treasury of the Russian state budget will continue to be filled with European money that will be used to finance the Russian genocide against the Ukrainian people.”

Chyczij said Canada was put in a position to decide whether to comply with an ally’s request or “hold the sanctions imposed on Gazprom and Nordstream 1”.

Three Conservative MPs also made a statement on Sunday saying that allowing the return of the equipment undermines sanctions Canada has imposed on Russia at a time when it should instead emerge as an alternative gas supplier to Europe.

“Allowing the return of the gas turbine sets a dangerous precedent for Putin’s blackmail of Europe and will negatively affect Canada’s position on the global stage,” said a joint statement by Tories Michael Chong, James Bezan and Pierre Paul -House.

In light of criticism of Canada’s decision, Wilkinson’s office pointed to the minister’s earlier statement. It said not only that the German economy was vulnerable, but that “Germans themselves risk not being able to heat their homes as winter approaches.”

The statement also stated that Canada has imposed sanctions on more than 1,600 people since Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014.

The same day Wilkinson announced that the turbines would be returned, Secretary of State Mélanie Joly announced that Canada planned to impose a new set of sanctions against Russia’s land and pipeline transportation and manufacturing sectors.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 10, 2022.

— With files from The Associated Press

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