German chancellor Olaf Scholz has ordered the country’s economy ministry to initiate steps that will effectively put the certification process for the contentious Nord Stream 2 pipeline on hold after Russia’s president Vladimir Putin on 22 February  officially recognised the two breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine, Donetsk and Luhansk, and ordered the deployment of Russian troops there to carry out ‘peacekeeping functions’.

The permit process cannot continue until Germany has reassessed its supply security, which ‘will certainly take some time’ said Herr Scholz. Economy and climate minister Robert Habeck said the ‘one-sidedness of dependence on one supplier, who has also proven to be unreliable, must be overcome’. He added that Germany was secure in terms of supply regarding its gas reserves for the winter.

The pipeline Nord Stream 2 would connect Germany directly to the Russian gas supply, but it has split opinions in Europe and beyond for years. The link's construction in the Baltic Sea is completed, but the certification process is ongoing. 

The project dampens efforts to rekindle good transatlantic relations, as the US is strongly opposed to the project and for a time imposed sanctions on the companies involved. As tensions at the Russian-Ukrainian border rose, Germany's government considered the option of including Nord Stream 2 in a sanctions package in case of Russian aggression.