Germany, Austria slam US sanctions against Russia

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"Threats against companies from Germany, Austria and other European countries who are active on the US market but at the same time cooperate with Russian Federation in gas projects such as Nord Stream-2, create a new trend which may negatively affect the European-US relations", Kern and Gabriel said.

Germany and Austria hit back at USA lawmakers Thursday, one day after the Senate passed new provisions that could open the door to sanctions on European companies that do energy business with Russian Federation. It has always been expected that the sanctions would wear thin in Europe after awhile, and ultimately the U.S. may be hastening the European Union's exit from the sanctions effort.

"As far as the implementation of the sanctions is concerned, they don't hide that this is aimed at ensuring American LNG to Europe", Gazprom Deputy Chief Executive Officer Alexander Medvedev said.

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At the same time, Gabriel and Kern allege the United States was acting in the interest of domestic suppliers, which in recent years have begun to export natural gas and even crude oil, including to Europe. The legislation now moves to the House of Representatives. Eastern and Central European countries oppose the project, fearing that their dependence on Russian energy would increase. That takes square aim at Nord Stream 2, a pipeline that would deliver natural gas from Russian Federation directly to Germany, bypassing Ukraine.

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Mr Gabriel and Mr Kern said thousands of European jobs were at stake, and they voiced support for USA state department efforts to amend the new sanctions bill.

The two politicians warned that it wouldn't "only be highly regrettable, but also damaging" to their countries' cooperation on the Ukraine crisis if "irrelevant considerations such as USA economic interest in exporting gas were to gain the upper hand".

"The aim is to secure jobs in gas and oil industries in the United States", said Gabriel and Kern. "It is us who decide who will supply energy to us in accordance with the principles of openness and market competition", they stressed. One such project is Nord Stream 2 - a Baltic gas pipeline.

The new United States bill is punishment for alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. 2016 presidential election.

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