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(From The Moscow Times)
BABAYEVO, Vologda Region -- Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder on Friday was named to a key post on the $4.75 billion North European Gas Pipeline, the project he and President Vladimir Putin signed off on shortly before he left office.
The pipeline will give Gazprom direct access under the Baltic Sea to some of Europe's richest gas consumers, and has left transit countries Ukraine and Poland fearful of losing access to Russian gas.
The appointment of Schroder, a close ally of Putin and an enthusiastic backer of the pipeline project, as head of the pipeline company shareholders' committee came as pipes were ceremonially welded at the official start of construction.
High-ranking Russian and German officials wearing fur hats stood in temperatures of minus 15 degrees Celsius and watched the welding in a forest clearing near the Vologda region town of Babayevo, 475 kilometers north of Moscow.
Further highlighting the close energy ties between Russia and …