As we detailed previously, Bulgaria had been an enthusiastic supporter of the Russian-backed South Stream gas pipeline project, whose construction has stoked tensions between the West and Moscow as it enabled gas supply to bypass troubled Ukraine (thus squeezing the desparate economy back into Russia's hands). In early June, Bulgaria's Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski ordered an initial halt (after Europe offered the nation's suddenly collapsing banking system a lifeline). This time, Energy Minister Vasil Shtonov has ordered Bulgaria’s Energy Holding to halt any actions in regards of the project as it does not meet the requirements of the European Commission. Of course, we assume this decision (to halt a 2nd time) is entirely independent of NATO's deployment of 12 F-15s and 180 troops to Bulgaria's Graf Ignatievo Air Base.
As RT reports, all operations on Russia’s Gazprom-led project South Stream have been suspended, as they do not meet the requirements of the European Commission, Bulgaria’s Ministry of Economy and Energy said on its website.
“Minister of Economy and Energy Vasil Shtonov has ordered Bulgaria’s Energy Holding to halt any actions in regards of the project,” the ministry said. This specifically means entering into new contracts.
There has been mounting pressure from the EU to put the project on hold, and now the European Commission will be consulted each step of the way to make sure it complies with EU law.
European 'anti-monopoly' laws prohibits the same company to both own and operate the pipeline. However, Gazprom and Bulgaria had previously struck a bilateral agreement regarding that aspect of the project.
Bulgaria is the first country traversed by the pipeline on land, after a section that runs beneath the Black Sea from Russia.
Troops and fighter aircraft from the 493rd Fighter Squadron have been sent to Bulgaria as tensions in Eastern Europe continue to run high.
A dozen F-15s and approximately 180 personnel from the 493rd, based at RAF Lakenheath, England, have deployed to Graf Ignatievo Air Base to participate in a two-week bilateral training exercise with the Bulgarian air force, Pentagon spokesmen Col. Steve Warren told reporters Monday.
The exercise began Monday and will continue through Sept. 1.
The purpose of the deployment is to “conduct training and focus on maintain joint readiness while building interoperability,” Warren said.
The move comes at a time when America’s Eastern European partners and allies are concerned about Russian military intervention in Ukraine. There are fears that Moscow might try to destabilize other countries in the region.
“This is a reflection of our steadfast commitment to enhancing regional security,” Warren said about the exercise.
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How will Putin react one wonders?