(Recasts, adds detail)
MOSCOW/SOFIA, May 30 (Reuters) - The second line of the TurkStream gas pipeline, intended to ship Russian gas to southern European countries, will be directed to Bulgaria, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov announced on Wednesday after talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The gas pipeline is part of the Kremlin’s plans to bypass Ukraine, currently the main transit route for Russian gas to Europe, and strengthen its foothold on European gas markets. The proposed second line of the existing Nord Stream pipeline via the Baltic Sea is also part of these efforts, which would deprive Ukraine of most of its transit revenues.
Russian gas giant Gazprom, which supplies around 34 percent of the European gas market, built the first line of the TurkStream pipeline to Turkey for local gas consumption.
“The second fork of TurkStream will reach Bulgaria and through it Russian gas will come from Russia,” Borissov said on his Facebook page, ending speculation that the pipeline might have headed to Greece.
“I am thankful that we are returning to the gas distribution role that we had in the Balkans,” he said.
The two lines of TurkStream will each have an annual capacity of 15.75 billion cubic metres. Gazprom has completed the first line of TurkStream and Putin said about half of the second line had been built.
Bulgaria would like a portion of the gas to go to its gas hub project at the Black Sea port of Varna, Borissov said.
Sofia’s plans for the hub are backed by the European Commission. They followed the cancellation in 2014 of Gazprom’s South Stream gas pipeline project, which would have shipped Russian gas under the Black Sea via Bulgaria to central Europe.
“Gas will be used through the gas hub in Varna. The market and demand will define the quantities and prices. Our aim is to...be on the map for gas distribution,” Borissov said. (Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow, Tsvetelia Tsolova in Sofia; editing by Alexandra Hudson)