(Refiles to correct pipeline's name in paragraph 3 to "Nord
Stream", not "North Stream")
MOSCOW, June 19 Russia's energy minister said on
Thursday some of its partners in the South Stream gas pipeline
had come under pressure from the European Union to suspend their
involvement, Interfax news agency reported.
Bulgaria halted work on building the pipeline this month at
the behest of Brussels, pending a ruling on whether the project
complies with EU law.
South Stream and another Gazprom pipeline, Nord
Stream, are intended by Russia to bypass transit countries such
as Ukraine, to which Moscow has cut off supplies in a pricing
"The European Commission has taken a tough stance on
cross-border infrastructure projects with Russian
participation," the agency cited Energy Minister Alexander Novak
as telling the World Petroleum Congress in Moscow.
"Today, some of the South Stream partners are under
pressure. They are being asked not to take part in the project
until contentious issues on the pipeline's operation are
resolved. In particular, our Bulgarian colleagues have been
threatened with the cutting off of European funds," he was
quoted as saying.
Bulgaria's Socialist government - which is expected to step
down within weeks - strongly backed the pipeline but reluctantly
suspended construction amid threats of punishment from Brussels,
which is concerned the project does not comply with EU rules.
The European Commission, the EU's executive, suspended
negotiations on bringing South Stream into line with EU law
after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea region earlier this year.
Opposition leader Boiko Borisov, the front-runner to be the
next Bulgaria's prime minister, told Reuters that if he were
elected, South Stream's Bulgarian leg would still go ahead, but
signalled he would pay more heed to Brussels than the outgoing
Moscow cut gas supplies to Kiev on Monday after Ukraine
failed to meet a deadline to pay a $1.95 billion gas debt and
declined an offer of an almost one-fifth discount to the gas
price it is currently charged by Gazprom.
Interfax new agency quoted Novak as saying that there was no
information of any gas flows disruptions to Europe via Ukraine.
The EU's top negotiator in the gas price row between Russia
and Ukraine, Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger, is working
to bring the two sides together again before mid-July, he told
Reuters this week.
(Reporting by Lidia Kelly; writing by Katya Golubkova, editing
by Elizabeth Piper and Timothy Heritage)