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At the start of this year, Gazprom cut off the gas it pipes to Ukraine in protest at unpaid bills. Supplies to Ukraine’s neighbours were also disrupted for several weeks. As concern spread across Europe over security of supply from the Russian state company that delivers 35% of the continent’s gas, executives of Nord Stream, a joint venture company in which Gazprom owns a 51% stake, were already sounding out bankers for the financing of a new pipeline project now at the start of construction.