PARIS, April 24 (Reuters) - Western partners of Russian gas giant Gazprom agreed on Monday on financing the 9.5-billion euro Nord Stream 2 pipeline, removing a key hurdle for the Russian plan to pump more gas to Europe.
At a signing ceremony in Paris, Uniper, Wintershall, Shell, OMV and Engie agreed to each loan 10 percent of the cost of the venture, or 950 million euros each. Gazprom will shoulder 50 percent of the 55 billion cubic meter pipeline to start operations in 2019.
Gazprom's CEO Alexei Miller touted the agreement as a "a symbol" of Western backing for the project, which critics fear will increase reliance on Russian gas and circumvent Ukraine as a primary transit route for supplies to Europe.
The chairman of French gas and power group Engie said the new financial structure would allow Western partners to circumvent Polish government objections to an earlier plan for each company to get a 10 percent stakes in the venture. (Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel Maya Nikolaeva; editing by Vladimir Soldatkin)