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Prime minister Tony Blair and Russian president Vladimir Putin last week lent their backing to construction of a £5.7bn north European gas pipeline. Starting at Vyborg near St Petersburg it would transport Russian gas to mainland Europe and eventually the UK. The project will face competition from a pipeline connecting Balgzand in Holland to Bacton on the east coast of England, which is being designed by consultant Mott Macdonald for Dutch gas firm Gasunie.