June 8 (UPI) -- Russian energy company Gazprom said it received the necessary permit to advance construction of the Nord Stream gas pipeline through Swedish waters.
"This is an important milestone for our project," Lars Gronstedt, Gazprom's senior advisor for Nord Stream 2, said in a statement published Friday.
Sweden's government issued the permit necessary for Gazprom to build and operate the 315 mile section of the planned second leg of the Nord Stream gas pipeline in its territorial waters. Gazprom is doubling the pipeline with more capacity along the network's existing 760-mile artery.
Most of the Russian gas headed to the European market runs through Soviet-era pipelines in Ukraine. Political turmoil between Kiev and Moscow over gas arrears and later military conflict that followed Ukraine's pivot toward Europe exposed vulnerabilities to European energy security.
The Nord Stream pipeline avoids Ukrainian territory by running through the Baltic Sea to Germany. Plans to double the network have been meet with concerns from the United States and Europe, who worry about Gazprom's anti-trust behavior and Russia's tacit strategy of using energy for political leverage.
Gazprom, however, said its regional support is strong, with permits necessary for construction granted so far from Germany and Finland.
"The national permitting procedures in the two remaining countries along the route -- Russia and Denmark -- are proceeding as planned," the company's statement read.
Washington, for its part, has countered that strategy by trying to get more U.S. gas into the European market. Sanctions pressures, meanwhile, from Washington could impact non-Russian involved in the project.
Austrian energy company OMV, a project partner and consistent Gazprom partner, said the network is "of critical strategic importance ... as it will secure consistent, long-term gas supplies to Europe."