BERLIN/MOSCOW/KIEV (Own report) – Berlin is taking steps to possibly end sanctions against Russia. Today, almost one year after the signing of the Minsk II Agreement – whose full implementation is still considered as a prerequisite for ending the sanctions – the Bavarian Prime Minster, Horst Seehofer is expected to arrive in Moscow for talks on promoting the renewal of German-Russian business relations. Seehofer can build on decades of Bavarian-Russian cooperation. His visit to Moscow is closely coordinated with Germany’s federal government. The EU and NATO are also involved in Berlin’s cooperation efforts. Monday, Chancellor Angela Merkel also increased pressure on Ukraine’s President, Petro Poroshenko to finally obtain approval from Kiev’s parliament for the constitutional amendment providing Eastern Ukraine’s special status, as agreed upon in the Minsk II Agreement. Until now, nationalists and fascists have prevented this measure.
MOSCOW/BERLIN (Own report) – Moscow’s cancellation of the South Stream pipeline project is causing Berlin and Brussels headaches. EU bodies and government leaders of EU member states have expressed their wish to continue negotiations on the pipeline, which, in a few years, would annually have pumped 63 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Western Europe. They still see some possibilities for clarification. By delaying the project, Brussels had hoped to exert pressure on the Russian government. Moscow, however, got tired of banging on closed doors and announced South Stream’s cancellation on Monday. Germany is one of the losers, because it would have been able to expand its influence on the European gas supply through its BASF subsidiary Wintershall participating in the pipeline project. Turkey is the winner, because the planned Russian South Stream gas will now probably transit through its territory. Turkey, a loyal transit country, could become an influential gas distribution hub for the EU – at a time when tensions between Berlin/Brussels and Ankara are rising.