Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced the completion of the first stage of the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
The project aims to deliver Russian gas to Germany.
Putin made the announcement at the St Petersburg Economic Forum, the first large-scale international face-to-face meeting of the business community since the pandemic began.
He also spoke about the modernisation of energy to achieve carbon neutrality and proposed other countries be vaccinated with the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine.
"I'm glad to announce that today two and a half hours ago, the laying of the first line of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline was successfully completed. Work on the second line continues," Putin said, "On the German side, the pipes have arrived. On the Russian side, they have to be lifted and welded, that's all. But the laying itself is finished," added Putin.
He rejected the criticism from the United States which argues that it's part of Moscow's efforts to advance its geopolitical goals.
Putin also praised his country's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the vaccination rollout has been slow largely due to scepticism and experts have questioned whether the government's target of vaccinating more than 30 million people of the country's 146 million people by mid-June will be met.