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Iberian gas pipeline: Costa and Sanchez put pressure on Macron in Berlin, but Paris has other interests

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Antonio Costa and Pedro Sanchez see the German chancellor as a strong ally in the difficult mission of persuading France to allow the construction of a new Iberian gas pipeline across the Pyrenees to supply gas (and later green hydrogen) to Germany and the rest of Europe.

“The three of us (Portugal, Spain and Germany) worked to ensure that France could once again show itself open to this solution,” the prime minister told reporters in Berlin after a meeting with the leaders of Germany and Spain. Governments The prime minister says this is “not a form of pressure” on the French president, but in practice it puts forward arguments and allies to force him to change his position.

“(France) definitely doesn’t want to be isolated in this overall position,” says Costa, referring to the European support for building additional links between the Iberian Peninsula and the remaining 27, especially at a time when there is consensus on the need to diversify gas and energy suppliers.

Lisbon and Madrid have been fighting for years to stop being an energy island. And if there were times when Emmanuel Macron, and before him François Hollande, showed openness to a new gas pipeline, then recently the French president has been very critical of the construction of the so-called MidCat across the Pyrenees. He last blew up the project last week at an informal summit in Prague.

France cites environmental concerns and questions the need for a new gas pipeline when the one currently in place with Spain is not being used at full capacity (which the Spanish government has already opposed). But there are also “economic interests” behind this strong position, including Paris’ desire to export more electricity (and gas) to the rest of Europe without competing with Iberia.

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Costa “understands” these interests, but he hopes that, in turn, Macron will also understand that the current context has shown the need for “diversification” and that “the Iberian Peninsula is capable of producing renewable energy” and, in the future, it will also be able to produce and export green hydrogen. True, the construction of a new gas pipeline will take 5-8 years, and in the short term it does not solve the urgent problem of replacing Russian gas. But in the medium to long term, it could be a solution for Europe and a profitable investment for the two southern countries.

In the pressure game, he also reminds the French that “if it is not possible to connect France”, there is still the possibility of connecting through Italy. However, he also suggests that it “makes sense” to have a “connection through the Pyrenees”, which is also cheaper.

But without Paris’s blessing, there will be no MidCat, which means that Costa and Sanchez are left to insist on their arguments. Another socialist, the Chancellor of Germany, is counting on this. Olaf Scholz became a potential ally when Russia turned off the gas valve, showing that Germany’s bet on a major supplier was disastrous. However, the decision is not made in Berlin.

“Here in Berlin, nothing has been unlocked to deal with Paris,” said Costa, who already had a verbal meeting with Sanchez and Macron ahead of next week’s summit. “I don’t know if it’s in Brussels or Paris,” he says, but everything points to a meeting in the Belgian capital, on Wednesday or Thursday, before the start of the European Council, marked by another attempt to lower gas prices.

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Costa hopes for joint gas purchases

Costa hopes this will lead to “effective solutions” at the leaders’ meeting and a joint decision to lower energy prices. The meeting in Prague a week ago served to exchange ideas and bring positions closer, but divisions remain among the 27 participants.

Portugal is one of 15 countries in favor of setting a maximum price for gas imports, along with Spain, France, Italy or Belgium. But Germany remains opposed, arguing that “fixing a price cap poses a supply risk” and could alienate suppliers.

The Prime Minister believes that joint purchases of gas can become a “point of consensus”. “If there is a joint purchase, in practice we can all contribute to getting the best price when buying gas from different suppliers.”

The heads of state and government of 27 countries meet on Thursday and Friday. But to make progress, the European Commission also needs to put concrete legislative proposals on the table, something it has been putting off in recent weeks. On Tuesday it will be known whether to propose a joint purchase of gas or the introduction of a maximum price for imports.

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Vladimir Putin has delayed the invasion of Ukraine at least three times.

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Putin has repeatedly consulted with Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu about the invasion, Europa Press told Ukraine’s chief intelligence director Vadim Skibitsky.

According to Skibitsky, it was the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), which is responsible for counterintelligence and espionage work, that put pressure on Gerasimov and other military agencies to agree to launch an offensive. .

However, according to the Ukrainian intelligence services, the FSB considered that by the end of February sufficient preparations had already been made to guarantee the success of the Russian Armed Forces in a lightning invasion.

However, according to Kyiv, the Russian General Staff provided the Russian troops with supplies and ammunition for only three days, hoping that the offensive would be swift and immediately successful.

The head of Ukrainian intelligence also emphasized the cooperation of local residents, who always provided the Ukrainian authorities with up-to-date information about the Russian army, such as the number of soldiers or the exact location of troops.

The military offensive launched on February 24 by Russia in Ukraine caused at least 6.5 million internally displaced persons and more than 7.8 million refugees to European countries, which is why the UN classifies this migration crisis as the worst in Europe since World War II (1939-1945). gg.). ).

At the moment, 17.7 million Ukrainians are in need of humanitarian assistance, and 9.3 million are in need of food aid and housing.

The UN has presented as confirmed 6,755 civilian deaths and 10,607 wounded since the beginning of the war, stressing that these figures are much lower than the real ones.

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Life sentence for former Swedish official for spying for Russia

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A Stockholm court on Monday sentenced a former Swedish intelligence officer to life in prison for spying for Russia, and his brother to at least 12 years in prison. In what is considered one of the most serious cases in Swedish counterintelligence history, much of the trial took place behind closed doors in the name of national security.

According to the prosecution, it was Russian military intelligence, the GRU, who took advantage of the information provided by the two brothers between 2011 and their arrest at the end of 2021.

Peyman Kia, 42, has held many senior positions in the Swedish security apparatus, including the army and his country’s intelligence services (Säpo). His younger brother, Payam, 35, is accused of “participating in the planning” of the plot and of “managing contacts with Russia and the GRU, including passing on information and receiving financial rewards.”

Both men deny the charges, and their lawyers have demanded an acquittal on charges of “aggravated espionage,” according to the Swedish news agency TT.

The trial coincides with another case of alleged Russian espionage, with the arrest of the Russian-born couple in late November in a suburb of Stockholm by a police team arriving at dawn in a Blackhawk helicopter.

Research website Bellingcat identified them as Sergei Skvortsov and Elena Kulkova. The couple allegedly acted as sleeper agents for Moscow, having moved to Sweden in the late 1990s.

According to Swedish press reports, the couple ran companies specializing in the import and export of electronic components and industrial technology.

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The man was again detained at the end of November for “illegal intelligence activities.” His partner, suspected of being an accomplice, has been released but remains under investigation.

According to Swedish authorities, the arrests are not related to the trial of the Kia brothers.

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Ukraine admitted that Russia may announce a general mobilization

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“They can strengthen their positions. We understand that this can happen. At the same time, we do not rule out that they will announce a general mobilization,” Danilov said in an interview with the Ukrainska Pravda online publication.

Danilov believed that this mobilization would also be convened “to exterminate as many as possible” of Russian citizens, so that “they would no longer have any problems on their territory.”

In this sense, Danilov also reminded that Russia has not given up on securing control over Kyiv or the idea of ​​the complete “destruction” of Ukraine. “We have to be ready for anything,” he said.

“I want everyone to understand that [os russos] they have not given up on the idea of ​​destroying our nation. If they don’t have Kyiv in their hands, they won’t have anything in their hands, we must understand this,” continued Danilov, who also did not rule out that a new Russian offensive would come from “Belarus and other territories.” .

As such, Danilov praised the decision of many of its residents who chose to stay in the Ukrainian capital when the war broke out in order to defend the city.

“They expected that there would be panic, that people would run, that there would be nothing to protect Kyiv,” he added, referring to President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The military offensive launched on February 24 by Russia in Ukraine caused at least 6.5 million internally displaced persons and more than 7.8 million refugees to European countries, which is why the UN classifies this migration crisis as the worst in Europe since World War II (1939-1945). gg.). ).

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At the moment, 17.7 million Ukrainians are in need of humanitarian assistance, and 9.3 million are in need of food aid and housing.

The Russian invasion, justified by Russian President Vladimir Putin on the need to “denazify” and demilitarize Ukraine for Russia’s security, was condemned by the international community at large, which responded by sending weapons to Ukraine and imposing political and economic sanctions on Russia.

The UN has presented as confirmed 6,755 civilian deaths and 10,607 wounded since the beginning of the war, stressing that these figures are much lower than the real ones.

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