BERLIN - A company that operates ships laying sections of a new German-Russian pipeline said Saturday it is suspending that work after U.S. President Donald Trump signed legislation threatening sanctions.
Trump on Friday signed the bill passed earlier this week by the Senate that provides for sanctions against individuals and companies involved in laying the Nord Stream 2 pipeline under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany.
The U.S. has been an outspoken opponent of the pipeline, which will transport natural gas about 1,200 kilometers. Along with eastern European countries that also oppose the project, the U.S. government argues that it will increase Europe's dependence on Russia for energy.
On Saturday, Switzerland-based Allseas, which operates ships laying sections of the undersea pipeline, said in a brief statement that in anticipation of the enactment of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Allseas has suspended its Nord Stream 2 pipelay activities.
The company will "expect guidance comprising of the necessary regulatory, technical and environmental clarifications from the relevant U.S. authority," it added.
Construction of the pipeline is already well advanced, and it wasn't immediately clear what the impact will be. Nord Stream 2 spokesman Jens Mueller said in an emailed statement that "completing the project is essential for European supply security."
"We together with the companies supporting the project will work on finishing the pipeline as soon as possible," he added.
The German government said it regretted the approval of the U.S. legislation.
"The German government rejects such extraterritorial sanctions," spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said in a statement. "They affect German and European companies and constitute an interference in our domestic affairs."
Demmer said the U.S. measures are "particularly incomprehensible" in view of the fact that Russia and Ukraine reached an agreement this week on the future transit of Russian gas through Ukrainian territory.
Ukraine has been one of the countries that opposes Nord Stream 2 because it feared being frozen out as a gas transit country as a result of the pipeline's construction.
On Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel made clear that Germany is not considering retaliation against the U.S. sanctions. She told lawmakers in Berlin: "I see no alternative to conducting talks, though very firm talks, (to show that) we do not approve of this practice."
Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Wednesday that Moscow assumes the pipeline will be completed, and called the U.S. move "a direct violation of international law."