Bulgaria 'Lacked the Manliness' to Build South Stream, Putin Says
Russian President Putin said on Thursday his country didn't feel offended about Bulgaria and other countries' decision not to carry through the South Stream gas pipeline project due to their lack of "manliness".
Meeting Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in Budapest, he said Moscow was ready to return to the project - abandoned in December 2014 - but only if "guarantees" were provided.
What several countries failed to show courage about was defying the European Commission, TASS news agency quotes Putin as saying.
The Russian President chose Hungary for his first state visit for 2017 and who on Thursday arrived to Budapest for the second time in two years, said projects such as South Stream should be completely "depoliticized".
Before departing for the visit, he had suggested the options to join either Turkish Stream or Nord Stream would remain open to Hungary.
The Bulgarian Black Sea port of Varna was the landfall of South Stream, once designed to carry 63 billion cubic meters of gas to Central Europe via Bulgaria and Serbia.
But Sofia froze the construction of the pipeline in the summer of 2014, after a warning from Brussels, and for months refused to issue construction permits for the offshore section that enters Bulgaria's exclusive economic zone in the Black Sea. Putin then announced thr project was considered to be over, pitching an alternative "Turkish Stream" instead.
The European Commission deemed South Stream incompatible with its Third Energy Package of liberalization, which unbundles gas supply from the ownership of the infrastructure, meaning Russia would have to allow other suppliers into the pipes.
Last week, a Russian official revived the issue of a "pipeline to Varna", as a second route of Turkish Stream, could be considered by Moscow if Sofia wanted to go for it.
His words followed months-long negotiations with Turkey over the Turkish Stream pipeline, which substantially reduced the project in scope compared to the initial idea, with Ankara being offered limited options to serve as transit destination.
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