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HELSINKI (AFP) - The Nord Stream pipeline being built under the Baltic Sea to transport Russian gas to the European Union will not pose a risk to the environment, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said.
• Only a 'miracle' can save the Baltic Sea
"I believe that Nord Stream will be environmentally safe, reliable and a very good source of gas to Europe," Putin said at a Helsinki summit aimed at generating action to save the highly polluted Baltic Sea.
The Russian-led Nord Stream pipeline could free the European Union of the risks linked to disputes between Russia and Ukraine, through which 80 percent of Russian gas currently transits on its way to Europe.
Last year, a row between Russia and Ukraine on gas prices led to a cut off of supplies to western Europe and severe shortages in some countries amid freezing winter weather.
Citing past experience and new research, Putin said one-third of Russia's existing gas lines were under water and "everything is functioning without problem".
Finland's Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen agreed with Putin's view, saying it was possible to put a pipeline under the Baltic Sea, or any other sea, and ensure it did not leak.
"If there had been a risk, the countries wouldn't have given their approval," he said.
Nord Stream is planning to build a 1,220-kilometre (760-mile) pipeline to deliver gas from Russia to Germany, a 7.4-billion-euro (10.2-billion-dollar) project led by Russian state-run energy giant Gazprom in partnership with Germany's E.On Ruhrgas and BASF-Wintershall.
It will link the Russian city of Vyborg and Greifswald in Germany, running under the Baltic Sea and passing through Russian, Finnish, Swedish, Danish and German waters.
All the countries affected by the project have given it the green light, but Nord Stream still needs approval from a Finnish environmental permit authority, which is expected to announce its decision Friday.
A quarter of the gas consumed in the European Union comes from Russia.
Last Updated (Thursday, 11 February 2010 10:56)