Tensions on edge in East Germany as Ukraine war sparks calls to scrap Russian supplies

Germany is 'isolating Russia completely' says finance minister

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Ties between Russia and Germany are both historically and economically linked, with the former Soviet Union playing a key part in East German history. Furthermore, Germany is heavily reliant on Russian energy as the powerhouse of the EU. Industry leaders are worried about the consequences should ties diminish.

Eastern German engineer Jan Lämmerhirt, is responsible for creating liquefied hydrogen at a site in Leuna Chemical Park.

He is concerned an embargo by Russia which could see the plant suffer as 100 percent of the natural gas required to run the plant comes from Moscow.

He said: “From a purely economic point of view, it would be better if the pipelines remained open.

“Morally, of course, it’s a different matter.”

Many people in the region share the views of Mr Lämmerhirt who feel the consequences of a collapse in ties could have wider and deeper effects.

Germany has, so far, attempted to avoid angering Russia over sanctions and rhetoric concerning the war.

An oil embargo against Russia is being planned at EU level.

The German Government has repeatedly opposed a gas embargo, but here, too, the aim is to reduce dependence on Russia.

Currently, around 26 percent of EU energy comes from Russia, down from a peak of 40 percent prior to the start of the war.

The EU is continuing to seek ways to diminish reliance on Russian energy, with alternatives such as renewable or more energy-efficient options instead.

Many people fear for their jobs, and the mood in the East is tense.

Saxony’s minister-president Michael Kretschmer (CDU) recently warned that the consequences of the sanctions should not hit the East harder than the West.

The special relationship with Russia became apparent in 2019, for example, when Mr Kretschmer called for an end to the sanctions that the EU had imposed on Moscow in 2014 because of Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

The regional leader also said that it was important to note that the eastern German states had their own opinion on this issue.

Polls also proved this. Shortly before the Russian attack on Ukraine, 51 percent of East Germans still thought that Germany should cooperate as closely as possible with Russia.

Mr Kretschmer also says there are great concerns about the oil embargo being discussed at the EU level.

The east would be particularly affected because the two large oil refineries in Leuna and Schwedt in Brandenburg have so far processed Russian oil from the Druzhba pipeline.

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On a wider scale, Germany also houses the end of the line of the Nord Stream pipeline, with the second project still to become fully functional.

Speaking of the reliance on such energy, Jan Redmann, CDU parliamentary group leader in the Brandenburg state parliament said: “In Brandenburg alone, 130,000 homes are fuelled with oil.

“If prices change permanently, then we in the east will be the ones to suffer.
“We are in a reindustrialisation process right now.”

Outside of Germany, the EU as a whole has discussed in detail its plans to scrap Russian gas supplies.

Describing the project, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the plans were an “ambition on another level.”

Recent reports suggest the EU would need to spend around £178bn to prise itself away from dependence on Russian energy.

Iran, Qatar and the US have all stated they would be willing to supply the EU with energy, in particular gas, but none have the logistical advantages currently enjoyed by Russia when it comes to infrastructure.

The EU has hence focused its attention on renewable energy, with £100bn set aside for improving such sources.

However, for Germany and the rest of the EU, time and financial pressure are against them.

Frans Timmermans, vice president of the European Commission said: “Whenever we talk about rapid deployment of renewables, there is an elephant in the room- getting a permit.

“It might take as long as nine years for wind and up to four years for solar projects, so this is time that we do not have and we have to speed things up.

Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg

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