VoA: Bulgaria Key Battleground in US-Russia Energy War
Bulgaria is on the frontline of confrontation between the US and Russia as the former is battling Moscow's energy dominance in Eastern Europe, according to a recent article.
A text run on Voice of America's website points to the country's energy dependence on Russia (with 85% of natural gas and most of the nuclear fuel coming from there) and to the Kremlin's habit to combine geopolitical priorities and "financial interests of certain people involved," as the Voice of America quotes former Energy Minister Traycho Traykov as saying.
VoA reminds of the visit by US Secretary of State John Kerry and his aide on Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland to Sofia in mid-January. Back then Kerry reiterated the need of Bulgaria to diversify energy sources and, in a joint press conference with Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, announced the country was to send an energy expert to Bulgaria's capital.
"The U.S. moves come amid renewed charges that Russia – through its state-controlled energy company, Gazprom – has successfully blocked shale gas exploration in Bulgaria through a shadowy but well-funded campaign waged to protect its regional energy dominance," the article reads.
Bulgaria imposed in 2012 a moratorium on shale gas exploration and drilling after mass protests during Borisov's previous tenure (2009-2013). Ever since, there have been allegations, mostly from the US, that Moscow is behind the demonstrations, a claim Sofia denies.
The article cites energy experts who argue Russia has been behind anti-fracking protests across Eastern Europe and who say "Russia will do anything to disrupt production, especially in Central and Eastern Europe".
Environmentalists are quoted as saying "nothing's been proven, no one's been named as a paid agent of the Russians," this being said by Borislav Sandov, co-founder of the Bulgarian Green Party and spokesman for Fracking Free Bulgaria.
"Evidence for the alleged Russian campaign is based mainly on financial links and anecdotal accounts," the article's author adds, but cites Margarita Assenova, an analyst at a US-based think tank, who argues assets have been transferred to environmental groups through "local corporate structures connected with Russia", or with Overgas in the case of Bulgaria.
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