Waives Sanctions on Nord Stream 2, Builder of Russia-Germany Pipeline

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration on Wednesday waived sanctions against Nord Stream 2, the Russian-controlled builder of a Russia-Germany gas pipeline, which Washington has called a geopolitical security risk.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a letter to Congress that waiving the original sanctions mandated by Congress for Swiss-based Nord Stream 2 AG, and its chief executive Matthias Warnig, “is in the national interests of the United States.”

The move defused rising tensions between Washington and Berlin over the project, which Germany and other European countries see as crucial to securing long-term energy supplies to the region.

Germany had rejected the looming imposition of sanctions as interference in its domestic affairs.

Earlier Wednesday, Germany’s foreign minister Heiko Maas welcomed the expected move as a conciliatory step.

“We understand the decisions that have been taken in Washington as taking into account the really extraordinarily good relationship that have been built with the Biden administration,” Maas said.

The State Department did approve sanctions on several vessels and smaller companies and organizations involved in building and administering the pipeline.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also welcomed the expected move, saying: “It’s better than reading announcements of new sanctions, it would certainly be positive.”

But the move was strongly criticized by Republican Senator Jim Risch, who called the waiver “a gift to (Vladimir) Putin that will only weaken the United States’ leverage in the lead up to the impending Biden-Putin summit.”

“The administration is prioritizing perceived German and Russian interests over those of our allies in Central, Eastern, and Northern Europe,” Risch said in a statement.

Spams Russians With Texts Offering Rewards for Election Meddling Info

Russians are receiving spam text messages offering huge rewards in exchange for information about their country’s efforts to interfere in the United States’ presidential election.

News of the SMS messages came after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the $10 million reward in an attempt to prevent foreign interference in the November vote, pointing to efforts by “Russia and other malign actors.”

Screenshots of the texts, apparently sent by the U.S. State Department, have been shared on social media by Russians living as far west as Yekaterinburg in the Urals region and as far east as Vladivostok on the Pacific coast, the TJournal news website reported.

“The U.S. State Department is offering up to $10 million for information about interference in the U.S. presidential election,” the text message from an unknown sender reads in Russian.

It contains a link leading to a verified Russian-language Twitter account for the U.S. Rewards for Justice (RFJ) Program, which offers bounties in return for information about threats to U.S. national security. The account was created in February.

A State Department representative confirmed to The Daily Beast that the messages are real, saying it is “advertising a reward offer through SMS messages and a variety of other communications tools and techniques.”

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused the U.S. of hypocrisy and joked that the State Department’s website would soon be overwhelmed by people denouncing it.

“By calling on people to speak about interference in American elections for money, the American special services are unceremoniously interfering in our life,” Zakharova wrote on Facebook. “What is this if not a real hybrid attack?”

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