Bulgaria Halts Russian Gas Pipeline Construction

Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski announced the suspension on Sunday after meeting US senators John McCain, Christopher Murphy and Ron Johnson.

“I have ordered all work to be stopped. We will decide on further developments following consultations with Brussels,” Oresharski told journalists.

The Bulgarian government has come under massive pressure from the US and the EU in recent days over the project amid increased fears about Moscow’s hold over European energy supplies that were boosted by the crisis in Ukraine.

The European Commission started an infringement procedure against Sofia on June 2, claiming that Russian state-run energy giant Gazprom’s projected monopoly over the pipeline would violate internal EU regulations. Bulgaria faces steep fines for noncompliance.

On Friday, US ambassador to Bulgaria Marcie Ries also threatened companies and individuals working with Storytransgaz - the company that won the 3.5 billion euro contract to build the Bulgarian section of the pipeline - with US sanctions.

Stroytransgaz is owned by Gennady Timchenko, a Russian businessmen who was hit with US sanctions over his alleged close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin over Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in March.

But Bulgarian premier Oresharski also faces internal pressure from pro-Russian factions inside Bulgaria.

“Building South Stream is in Bulgaria’s interest but now the project has become hostage to geopolitics,” said Yurii Borisov, a prominent member of one of the largest ‘friends of Russia’ groups in Sofia.

“Right now the way our government is behaving is closer to the position of Germany and France than to that of Russia,” he said.

Several have prominent sociologists blamed the...

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