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Russia drops second leg of gas pipeline via Belarus

Russia has dropped the idea of building a second leg of a pipeline delivering natural gas via Belarus to Europe, the industry and energy minister said on Thursday.

“There are no reasons to launch the Yamal-Europe 2 project,” Viktor Khristenko said on October 19, despite Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov saying he was in favor of reconsidering the pipeline proposal. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky also pledged in October that Russia would receive economic privileges to build the pipeline.

The Yamal-Europe pipeline runs from northwest Siberia to Russia’s border with Belarus, and from there extends 2,000 km (1,240 miles) to Germany, via Poland. The addition of a second leg of the pipeline was proposed in 2005, to meet Europe’s growing gas demand. Khristenko said Russia was currently laying the Nord Stream pipeline along the Baltic seabed to Germany for the same purposes.

The Belarusian segment of the Yamal-Europe pipeline is 575 km (360 miles) long, and has capacity of around 33 billion cubic meters per year. Russian energy giant Gazprom’s May 18 deal to buy 50% in Belarusian pipeline operator Beltransgaz for $2.5 billion in four equal installments by 2010 is expected to tighten the Russian gas monopoly’s operational control over the Yamal-Europe pipeline, one of the gas giant’s main export routes to Central Europe. (