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Russia and Germany Begin Gas Pipeline Project

Russia and Germany have begun building a pipeline to carry Siberian natural gas under the Baltic Sea directly to Germany.

Officials from both nations Friday attended ceremonies at Babayevo in Russia's Vologda region to launch the project. Russia's natural gas firm, Gazprom and two German companies, E.ON and the BASF group, are building the project.

The pipeline will run from an existing natural gas facility to Vyborg on the Gulf of Finland. It will then extend under the Baltic Sea to Greifswald in northeast Germany. Russia hopes it will start operating in 2010 and eventually reach an annual capacity of 27 billion cubic meters.

The project is expected to cost nearly five billion dollars.

Russia's neighbors such as Poland and Ukraine have expressed concern over being bypassed by the project. The Three Baltic countries, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, questioned its environmental impact.

Meanwhile Russian authorities announced former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder as chief of the pipeline firm's board.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters and AFP.