President Aleksandar Vucic said Belgrade is continuing to pay for the transit of gas to his country
FILE PHOTO: A Gazprom gas facility in Krasnodar Region, Russia, 2020. © Vitaly Tikhomirov/Sputnik
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has urged neighboring Bulgaria not to stop the flow of Russian gas through the TurkStream pipeline. Sofia said it will not renew the contract with Moscow in light of its military campaign against Ukraine.
“It’s important to us that Bulgaria doesn’t interrupt the operation of the pipeline,” Vucic said on Sunday, adding that his country is paying for transit.
“We’re saying that we want the Russian gas from the TurkStream pipeline, so let us take it, we’re paying for it. And what you do is your business, and what you want is your business, we have no issue with it.”
The president added that he was not sure it would be “that easy” for Bulgaria to stop gas imports from Russia.
Vucic previously said that shutting the pipeline down would be “a complete disaster.” The Balkan Stream, a section of the TurkStream that runs through Serbia, was launched just last year.
Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Assen Vassilev said on Saturday that the country would not renew its gas contract with Moscow. “During the next [few] weeks there will be discussions, at a European level, for a common gas contract for the entire European Union. We expect this mechanism to start functioning in the summer,” Vassilev said, adding that there were “alternatives” to buying gas from the Russian company Gazprom.
Bulgaria began receiving gas from Azerbaijan in 2021. Ivan Topchiyski, the chairman of Bulgargaz’s board of directors, said that Sofia was in talks to increase supplies from Baku.
Many countries, including the US, UK, EU member states, and Canada, imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia following its attack on Ukraine on February 24.
Moscow attacked its neighbor following a seven-year standoff over Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics in Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols had been designed to regularize the status of those regions within the Ukrainian state.
Russia has now demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.