Preparations for building Nord Stream are well under way
A Finnish environmental agency has given Russia the go-ahead to build a major gas pipeline to Germany under the Baltic Sea.
The decision was the last official hurdle for the 1,220km (756-mile) Nord Stream pipeline, which is expected to be completed in 2012.
Russia's gas giant Gazprom has the biggest stake in the new venture.
The plan is to pump 55bn cubic metres of gas annually to Germany and other EU countries through Nord Stream.
Gazprom's stake in Nord Stream is 51%, Germany's BASF-Wintershall and E.ON Ruhrgas hold 20% each and Gasunie of the Netherlands has 9%.
On Wednesday, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told Baltic leaders in the Finnish capital Helsinki that extensive research had been carried out on Nord Stream's environmental impact and that the pipeline would be "safe".
The Baltic is already a sink for chemical pollutants and untreated sewage, and is said to be one of world's most polluted seas.
Concerns have been raised in the Baltic that the project could stir up toxins lying on the sea bed, especially those inside a vast number of World War II armaments.
The conditions of Finland's permit include a ban on the anchoring of ships laying the pipeline in Finland's economic zone, to prevent the disturbance of sediment.
Nord Stream has already got approval from Russia, Sweden, Denmark and Germany. The overall cost of the project is put at about 7.4bn euros (£6.4bn).
EU countries are also involved in two other major projects to deliver gas to Europe from Russia and Central Asia, the Nabucco and South Stream pipelines.