MOSCOW, March 2 Croatia on Tuesday joined the
Moscow-backed South Stream gas pipeline project aimed at
bringing Russian gas into Europe south of its existing routes,
which cross Ukraine.
Moscow is planning two new gas pipelines into Europe, Nord
Stream and South Stream, which both bypass Ukraine, and the
Croatian deal comes just days before Ukraine's new leader visits
"The advantages of the South Stream implementation are
obvious to everyone including Croatia, which joined (the
project) today," said Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
after the agreement was signed in Moscow.
Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor added that the
signed document anticipates the creation of a joint venture.
The European Union candidate country consumes some 3.2
billion cubic metres of gas annually and covers some 60 percent
from its own resources. The remaining 40 percent is imported
Russia has already signed an agreement on the South Stream
pipeline with five countries -- Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary,
Greece and Slovenia.
The Russian gas giant Gazprom (GAZP.MM) and the Italian
energy group ENI (ENI.MI) are key partners in the project to
build a gas pipeline under the Black Sea to supply gas to
The project is seen as strategically important by European
countries keen to ensure the security of supplies of Russian gas
by bypassing former Soviet satellite states where there have
been energy supply disputes with Moscow.
A pricing row between Moscow and Kiev at the start of last
year disrupted gas supplies to a number of European countries,
New Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich is scheduled to
visit Moscow later this week. On Monday in Brussels, he promised
the European Union he would keep Ukraine on the reform path and
ensure it is a reliable transit route for Russian gas supplies.
(Reporting by Dasha Korsunskaya; Writing by Vladimir Soldatkin;
Editing by Greg Mahlich)