Canada will return other turbines to Germany for gas pipeline with Russia

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Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly says Canada still plans to return five turbines used in a Russian natural gas pipeline — despite the fact that the company operating the pipeline refused to accept one turbine that has been returned to Germany already.

In July, the government granted an exemption to ship six turbines undergoing maintenance in Montreal back to Germany to be subsequently handed over to the Russian state-owned firm Gazprom, which operates the Nord Stream 1 pipeline that provides Germany and other European countries with natural gas.

One turbine has been returned to Germany but Gazprom has refused to accept it, citing technical issues and claiming it wants further documentation showing that the equipment is not subject to Western sanctions.

Despite Gazprom’s refusal, Joly told CBC News Network the plan is still to return the five remaining turbines.

“That was the decision that we took,” Joly told host Hannah Thibedeau on Wednesday. “That’s exactly what Germany asked us.”

Ukraine has criticized the federal government for agreeing to Germany’s request to exempt Siemens Canada from sanctions so that it could return the turbines. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy himself said the Kremlin would view the move as a sign of “weakness.”

The federal government has defended the move as necessary to secure gas supplies for Germany. Ottawa also argues the Kremlin would have exploited a refusal by Canada to return the turbine to redirect the blame for Europe’s energy shortages toward the sanctions on Russia — which could undermine public support in the West for Ukraine.

Joly repeated that argument during Wednesday’s interview.

“Canada doesn’t want to give any form of excuse to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to continue to weaponize his flow of energy to Europe,” she said.

But in an interview with the Canadian Press, Ukrainian Ambassador to Canada Yulia Kovaliv again called on Canada to cancel the sanctions waiver.

She said it’s clear that Russia will not accept the turbine that Siemens has delivered to Germany, and accused Russia of using gas supplies to terrorize Europe.

“Our position is quite clear — we do think that this waiver should be cancelled and now,” she said.

“If it was an argument to call Putin’s bluff, everybody sees for the last few weeks it is now quite obvious that it is Russian games.”

In recent months, Russia also has cut the gas flow through Nord Stream 1 to 20 per cent of capacity and recently announced it would shut down the line entirely for three days at the end of the month, citing the need for unscheduled maintenance.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told CBC’s Power & Politics that Germany would continue to work with Canada to ensure the remaining five turbines are returned.

“I think there is political understanding that we will cooperate, that we are friends and that we will not make it feasible that the Russian game is working,” Scholz told.

Scholz was in Canada this week to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and sign a “joint declaration of intent” that calls on the two countries to invest in hydrogen, establish a “transatlantic Canada-Germany supply corridor” and start exporting hydrogen by 2025.

But Orest Zakydalsky of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress said the government should have used Scholz’s visit as an opportunity to revoke the exemption for the turbines.

“There is no purpose in maintaining the permit. It is disappointing to our community that Canada missed the opportunity to cancel the permit during the chancellor’s visit,” Zakydalsky said in a media statement.