Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov and German Economics Minister Michael Glos, who met with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin on 8 December, are due to attend the ceremony in the Russia’s Vologda region, where construction of the first, overland section of the planned pipeline will begin.
The $5 billion pipeline, to be built by Russia's Gazprom and German companies, will carry Russian gas to Germany and other West European countries. The first gas should be delivered in 2010.
The 1,200 kilometer pipeline will bypass routes through Poland and the Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The Baltic states and Poland have expressed irritation at the project, saying it could cause environmental damage and possibly disturb tons of chemical weapons that the former Soviet Union dumped in the Baltic Sea after World War II.