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By Tsvetelia Tsolova and Vladimir Soldatkin
SOFIA , March 4 (Reuters) - Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told his Bulgarian counterpart Boyko Borissov on Monday that Russia needs guarantees from the European Commission prior to choosing Bulgaria as a route for its TurkStream gas pipeline project.
Russia is building the TurkStream twin gas pipelines to Turkey and beyond to south eastern Europe, as part of its plans to bypass Ukraine, a major route for its gas exports to Europe.
Russian gas exports have became increasingly politicised since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
“We need to take into account the experience, which we’ve got in the past years, and it’s not the most pleasant one. I mean this situation with South Stream,” Medvedev told a briefing in Sofia with Bulgarian Prime Minister Borissov.
“That’s why we can talk about further concrete steps only after the corresponding guarantees will be issued... by the European Commission that in the future this project (TurkStream) will not fall apart.”
Russia cancelled South Stream in 2014, blaming opposition from Brussels. The pipeline aimed to bring Russian gas through Bulgaria to central and eastern Europe.
The first TurkStream pipeline, with a capacity of 15.75 billion cubic metres, is designed to supply gas to the Turkish domestic market.
Bulgaria is worried that it could lose revenues currently received from the transit of Russian gas to Turkey once the TurkStream pipeline becomes operational by the end of this year.
Borissov said Bulgaria only wanted to maintain the level of gas transit it benefits from at present for transporting up to 16 billion cubic meters of Russian gas per year to Turkey.
“Once TurkStream starts to operate that quantity of gas through Ukraine and Bulgaria will stop and Bulgarian pipes will be empty,” Borissov said. “Bulgaria wants to keep at least what it has.”
Bulgaria has been hoping to attract the extension of the second line of the TurkStream pipeline to run through its territory to Serbia, Hungary and Austria rather than through Greece.
Sofia plans to build a 1.4 billion euros gas pipeline as part of a project to set up a regional gas hub and secure the extension of Russia’s TurkStream to central Europe.
Borissov said Sofia would organise a fair and transparent tender to seek a strategic investor to build 2,000 megawatt Belene nuclear power project on the Danube, estimated to cost about 10 billion euros ($11.3 billion).
Medvedev said that Russia was ready to take part in construction of Belene.
$1 = 0.8840 euros Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin and Tsvetelia Tsolova. Editing by Jane Merriman