Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that the Nord Stream 2 undersea gas pipeline would help to calm a surge in European gas prices and that it was ready to begin exports now that the pipeline's second stretch had been completed.
Nord Stream 2, which was completed in September but is still awaiting regulatory approval from Germany and the European Union, is being opposed by the US and several countries, including Poland and Ukraine, who claim it will increase Russia's leverage over Europe.
The pipeline was supposed to be finished in 2019, but construction was halted due to the threat of sanctions by Donald Trump's administration and the subsequent withdrawal of the Swiss-Dutch company Allseas from pipe-laying.
On Wednesday, Putin announced that the second leg of the twin pipeline had been filled with gas.
"I'd like to congratulate Gazprom and your partners in Nord Stream 2 on the completion of work and the creation of this additional large trunk-route and that it is ready for work," Putin said at a government meeting attended by Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller.
The $11 billion pipeline was built by the Kremlin-controlled gas giant Gazprom, with European energy companies paying half of the cost, including Germany's Uniper and BASF's Wintershall Dea, international oil major Shell, Austria's OMV, and France's Engie.
The certification of the link from Russia to Germany along the Baltic Sea bed is not expected before the end of the first half of 2022.
Natural gas prices in Europe have reached all-time highs as a result of the country's economic recovery and robust energy demand.
Some politicians and experts have blamed Russia for limiting its gas exports while waiting for regulatory approval and a broader standoff with the West over Ukraine, which fears a military invasion by Moscow. Russia has denied any intention of attacking Ukraine.
Putin stated that the Nord Stream 2 project will lower gas prices in Europe as well as in Ukraine by increasing gas supplies.
"This, for sure, will have an immediate impact on price on the market, on the spot. And, of course, all the countries, the consumers in those countries that consume Russian gas, will feel it "Putin stated.
The flow reversal in the Yamal - Europe pipeline, another major route for Russian gas to Europe, to the eastward earlier this month has increased upward pressure on Europe's gas prices.
On Wednesday, gas flowed from Germany to Poland via the pipeline for the ninth day in a row, according to data from German network operator Gascade.