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By Olesya Astakhova
ANTALYA, Turkey, July 26 (Reuters) - The second leg of the TurkStream gas pipeline is planned to go through Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Friday, as Moscow prepares to phase out gas transit to Europe via Ukraine.
In 2006 and 2009, Russia temporarily halted its gas transit via Ukraine, alleging that Kiev was “siphoning” gas meant for Europe. Ukraine denied any wrongdoing. Since then, state-controlled Gazprom has sought to bypass the country.
Four sources familiar with Moscow’s position told Reuters on Friday that Russia wants to strike a short-term deal with Kiev on gas transit to Europe in order to buy time to complete pipelines that will bypass Ukraine.
The current 10-year deal with Ukraine lapses at the end of this year.
Gazprom is currently building the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline beneath the Baltic Sea, which along with the TurkStream is aimed at bypassing Ukraine. TurkStream’s first line, designed only for Turkey’s needs, is expected to start operating on Jan. 1, 2020.
The second leg, which is also planned for 15.75 billion cubic metres (bcm) annual capacity, the same as the first one, is to run from Bulgaria to Serbia and Hungary, Novak told reporters on Friday.
He did not say how the route was set to continue from Hungary. “The launch of the second leg depends on the (gas) infrastructure implementation by our (European) partners,” Novak said.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said in March that Hungary would make additional infrastructure investments to ensure access to Russian gas by early next year through the TurkStream pipeline which is under construction in Serbia and Bulgaria.
Serbia aims to finish its part of the pipeline by the end of this year and Bulgaria wants its part of the TurkStream pipeline to be operational by the end of 2020. (Reporting by Olesya Astakhova; Writing by Anton Kolodyazhnyy and Katya Golubkova; Editing by Mark Potter and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)