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Russia Sees Underhanded Sanctions in Bulgaria's Suspension of South Stream

Published: June 10, 2014 (Issue # 1814)



  • An engineer welding a section of the South Stream pipeline in Bulgaria.
    Photo: Gazprom

Bulgaria's decision to suspend construction of the Russia-led South Stream pipeline project on its territory, undermining Russia's efforts to diversify its gas transportation infrastructure to Europe away from Ukraine, is an underhanded economic sanction thrust on Russia by the West, a top Russian diplomat and Russian industry analysts said Monday.

Vladimir Chizhov, Russia's envoy to the European Union, slammed the move against the $45 billion pipeline project, which followed a visit by three U.S. senators to Bulgaria late last week, as "economic sanctions by stealth," and highlighted efforts by top European officials to link the continuation of work on the project with Russia's position on Ukraine.

"South Stream is directly related to Ukraine, because once it is completed, Ukraine will loose its status as monopoly transit country [for the Russian gas going to European consumers]," Chizhov said, Itar-Tass reported.

South Stream, which is designed to deliver 63 billion cubic meters of gas per year and from Russia's Krasnodar region across the bottom of the Black Sea to Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary before entering Austria, has the potential to shift the balance of energy power in Eastern Europe away from Ukraine by depriving the country of its leverage as the main transit country for Russia's gas.

Last week, energy-hungry EU member state Bulgaria seemed determined to withstand pressure from Brussels and Washington, with the country's Energy Minister Dragomir Stoynev defending it as a priority infrastructure project.

But following a visit by U.S. senators John McCain, Christopher Murphy and Ron Johnson on Sunday, Bulgarian Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski said the country would halt construction work on the pipeline, in which Russia's state gas exporter Gazprom holds a 50-percent stake.

McCain, who is known for his staunch criticism of President Vladimir Putin, was quoted by The Associated Press as saying after the meeting that "obviously we want as little Russian involvement as possible."

Bulgarian authorities soon tried to row back on Sunday's announcement, with the Energy Minister Dragomir Stoynev saying on Monday that the project cannot be cancelled and that it will be completed sooner or later. Serbia the next leg of the pipeline said it will still suspend the project until the construction of Bulgaria's section is sorted out.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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