World newswires

Vilnius calls US-German pipeline deal 'a mistake'

Lithuania on Thursday said the deal struck by the US and Germany over a controversial Russian gas pipeline was "a mistake", but there was still time to seek concessions from Moscow.

The Baltic state has, like several other European countries and the United States, fiercely opposed the Nord Stream 2 project to double Russian gas supplies to Germany.

The nearly finished 10-billion-euro ($12-billion) pipeline has long been a sore point between Washington and Berlin, but the agreement announced on Wednesday aims to draw a line under the row.

The agreement threatens sanctions on Russia should it use energy as a weapon against Ukraine and seeks to extend the transit of gas through Ukraine.

"It is a mistake and that mistake will cost a lot," Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told reporters.

Landsbergis said the pipeline is "a major victory" for Russian President Vladimir Putin, adding that "he needs to pay a really high cost for that victory".

He stressed that it is still possible for the West to seek concessions from Russia before the pipeline is turned on, such as by using it as leverage to demand that Russian troops withdraw from Ukraine.

"It is a big lever and there is a chance to use that lever somewhat positively. If this is not done, it would be a defeat," Landsbergis said.

The pipeline bypasses Ukraine's gas infrastructure, depriving the nation of badly needed transit fees and, Kiev fears, removing a key check on potential Russian aggression in the region.

Germany said it would use its leverage to persuade Russia to extend a gas transit agreement through Ukraine that is set to expire at the end of 2024, and boost investment in green energy projects in Ukraine.

But Landsbergis said the agreements between Russia and Ukraine might not matter to Moscow once Nord Stream 2 is launched.