SOCHI, Russia - Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Bulgaria on Wednesday of deliberately delaying the implementation of Russia's TurkStream natural gas pipeline on its territory and said that Moscow could find ways to bypass Bulgaria if needed.
Russia is building TurkStream in two lines, with 15.75 billion cubic meters (bcm) annual capacity each, with first leg aimed at supplying Turkey and the second one running further from Bulgaria to Serbia and Hungary.Russia plans to start the first line next month but the launch of the second one depends on building the needed gas infrastructure by Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary. TurkStream and Nord Stream 2 are essential for Moscow to continue gas exports to Europe as Russia wants to suspend transit via Ukraine.
Speaking at the joint news conference with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Putin said that Bulgaria was 'deliberately' delaying implementing the TurkStream on its territory.
"If the Bulgarian leadership does not want it (TurkStream to run via its territory) we will find another ways to implement it in the southern Europe," Putin said. He did not provide other details.
In September, Bulgaria signed a 1.1 billion euros ($1.21 billion) contract with Saudi-led group Arkad to build the 474 km pipeline across its territory.
Sofia hopes the whole pipeline, which Bulgaria has dubbed Balkan Stream, will become operational as early as 2020, but given that the contract with Saudi company was signed only in September, some industry officials are doubtful of the timeline.
Earlier on Wednesday, Vuvic told Putin that Serbia has almost completed the construction of the TurkStream natural gas pipeline on its territory.