The TurkStream natural gas pipeline will strengthen security of both Europe and the Balkans, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.
The installment of pipes on the Serbian territory will be completed in the coming weeks, Putin told a news conference in Sochi following a meeting with his Serbian counterpart Alexandar Vucic.
"Serbia joined the construction of the gas transportation system, which is an onshore section of the TurkStream gas pipeline in southern Europe.
"We are convinced that the implementation of these large-scale energy projects will significantly strengthen the energy security not only of Serbia, but also of the entire Balkan region and Europe in general," Putin said.
- Russia accuses Bulgaria of delay in TurkStream
The president added that the route of the pipeline could be changed as Bulgaria is delaying the building of its part of the pipeline.
"Despite repeated assurances and requests to the Russian side to ensure the supply of our gas through Turkey to Bulgaria, we see that the Bulgarian side, sad as it may sound, is deliberately delaying the implementation of the project on its territory,” Putin said.
"Let's see how this project will continue to be implemented on the Bulgarian territory. If the Bulgarian leadership does not want, we will find other ways to implement it in southern Europe.”
Serbia can take part in the transit of the Russian gas, Putin said, adding that talks on the issue are ongoing.
- Russia to ensure gas supplies to Serbia
Vucic, for his part, said that Putin guaranteed Serbia would have no lack of gas supplies regardless of the fate of the Russian gas transit via Ukraine.
"I have received assurances from Russian President Putin and Mr. Miller [head of gas company Gazprom] that we will always be able to buy additional gas from the territories of other countries …"
The Russia-Ukraine contract is due to expire at the end of 2019. The two sides are currently negotiating the terms of a new agreement. According to Putin, Kiev so far has offered terms which are "unacceptable" for Russia.
By Elena Teslova in Moscow