Putin outsmarted as TWO EU nations strike huge gas deal in major blow for Kremlin

Russia: EU 'completely wrong' to rely on gas says Timmermans

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Bulgaria will also receive more than one billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas from Azerbaijan via the new system. The pipeline, called the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB), will allow huge volumes of the fossil fuel gas through to pass through the two nations, reportedly at a cheaper price than Russia’s. Bulgarian and Greek energy regulators made the joint decision to licence the gas connection operator ICGB.

The pipeline had faced lengthy delays, but a deal was finally sped up after Putin cut Bulgaria’s gas last month.

It came after he threatened to rip up contracts the contracts of “unfriendly” countries that refuse to buy Russian gas in rubles.

While the move was only temporarily, Athens pledged to step in and help Sofia at the time.

After the gas supply was cut, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his Bulgarian counterpart Kiril Petkov discussed the issue by phone.

Mr Misotakis’s office issued a statement which said: “The prime minister said that Greece will help Bulgaria to deal with the new situation caused by the Russian decisions on energy.”

A Greek energy ministry official later told Reuters that Bulgaria had already ordered some shipments of liquified natural gas, set to be delivered via Greece’s Revithoussa LNG terminal off Athens.

Mr Petkov, also said at the time the IGB should be ready to flow by June this year.

Now, it appears the two nations are coming closer to wrangling out of Putin’s clutches.

They can also swerve the impacts of a future gas cut by looking to Azerbaijan as an alternative supplier.

Part of the bloc’s REPowerEU strategy to scupper energy links with Putin and ban all oil and gas imports by 2027 does involve looking to other suppliers for gas.

Bulgaria’s energy regulator has said that the new gas connection between his country and Greece will also prove crucial for Athens, which gets 30 percent of its supplies from Russia each year.

The interconnector will allow three bcm of natural gas to pass through, with the chance to boost this to five bcm once more powerful compressor stations are installed.

Azerbaijan’s gas usually comes into Greece via the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TANAP), which also passes through Turkey ends in Italy.

This is likely bad news for Putin, as Bulgaria is reportedly refusing to comply with Putin’s demand to set up an account with a Russian ban to pay for gas in rubles.

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Mr Petkov has slammed Russia for using “gas blackmail”.

And when Bulgaria and Poland (which also had its gas cut) were helped by neighbouring states, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen sent a bold message to Putin.

She said: “Today, the Kremlin failed once again in its attempt to sow division among member states. The era of Russian fossil fuels in Europe is coming to an end.”

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