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In the north German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, where former Chancellor Angela Merkel had her constituency, ties to Russia run deep — so deep, in fact, its leaders have defended a Kremlin project that the United States says helped cripple Ukraine.

At issue is a new gas pipeline project, which Germany halted on Tuesday in retaliation for Russia's decision to recognize two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine, shortly before it invaded and brought Europe to the brink of a major war.

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