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News 07 Jul 14

Bulgaria Vows to Build Russian Gas Pipeline

Bulgarian officials told Russia’s visiting foreign minister that Sofia was committed to building its section of the South Stream pipeline despite the suspension of work due to EU complaints.

Gergana Markova
BIRN

Bulgaria's Foreign Minister, Kristian Vigenin

“South Stream is very important for Bulgaria and south-eastern Europe,” Bulgarian Foreign Minister Kristian Vigenin said after talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Sofia on Monday.

“We support construction of the gas pipeline in accordance with European legislation and hope a dialogue with the European Commission will help to launch its construction,” Vigenin said, in comments reported by Russian news agency Itar-Tass.

Work on the Bulgarian section of the pipeline was suspended last month after the European Commission started legal action against Sofia, claiming that Russian state-run energy giant Gazprom’s projected monopoly over the project would violate internal EU regulations.

Lavrov urged Brussels to resolve the issue so that work could go ahead.

“I’d like our European partners, including Bulgaria’s friends, not to take decisions based on what concessions Russia is ready to make,” he said, according to Itar-Tass.

In an interview published earlier on Monday by Bulgarian news agencyFocus, Lavrov said that South Stream would benefit Europe as well as Moscow.

He said that it was “obvious that the South Stream gas pipeline will contribute seriously to the complex energy security of Europe, helping the diversification of gas delivery routes. This will be to everyone’s profit – both Russia and the European consumers’, including Bulgaria.”

Lavrov’s visit attracted protests from both pro- and anti-Kremlin activists.

Some protesters gathered in front ofthe presidency building in Sofia in response to a call to demonstrate against Russian influence in the country from Facebook page with the slogan: “Put an end to Bulgaria’s energy dependence on Russia. Do not betray Bulgaria! Lavrov, go home!”

A group of Ukrainians also joined the anti-Kremlin protest joined the protests as well, calling for the release of Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian activist and film director arrested for making a movie about the secession referendum in Crimea.

At the same time, supporters of the Bulgarian nationalist party Atakaorganized a counter-demonstration, shouting slogans in support of Russia and the South Stream project.

Police had to separate the two protesting groups in order to avoid confrontation between them.

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