Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin launched on Tuesday the Nord Stream pipeline, designed to bring Russian natural gas to Germany via the bed of the Baltic Sea and to avoid shipments through central Europe.
After gas fills the pipeline, Russia will start gas shipments in Europe. The first pipeline -with an annual capacity of 27.5 billion cubic metres - will be ready for shipments by the beginning of October.
The $11 billion Nord Stream project, owned 51 percent by Russia's Gazprom gas export monopoly and 15.5 percent each by Germany's E.ON Ruhrgas and BASF-Wintershall, includes two roughly parallel pipelines with an overall annual capacity of 55 billion cubic meters.
The pipeline, which would bypass Ukraine, Belarus, Poland and other transit energy states, is expected to be completed in 2012.
"Ukraine is our old and traditional partner. As any transit country it has the temptation to benefit from its transit position. Now this exclusive right disappears. Our relations will become more civilized," Putin told journalists.