Putin launches construction of South Stream gas pipeline
ANAPA, Russia - Agence France-Presse
A crew symbolically welding two pieces of South Stream gas pipeline together is seen on a huge screen during a ceremony to launch the construction the pipeline outside the Black Sea resort town of Anapa, on December 7, 2012. AFP photoRussian President Vladimir Putin on Friday launched construction of the long-awaited South Stream pipeline that the Kremlin hopes will pump gas to Europe while bypassing its neighbour Ukraine.
"This event is important not only for Russia's energy market, but for the entire European energy market," Putin said at the ceremony near the Black Sea resort town of Anapa as a crew symbolically welded two pieces of the pipeline together.
Amid applause from guests and partners that included ENI chief executive Paolo Scaroni and EDF head Henri Proglio, Putin said the project had received political support from all the participating countries. "South Stream creates conditions for stable, unconditional deliveries of Russian gas to our main consumers in Southern Europe," he said. "I have no doubts that there will be no damage to the Black Sea, while research will help safeguard the environment," he added.
Spearheaded by Russian natural gas giant Gazprom, the pipeline will flow underneath the Black Sea and through the Balkans, crossing Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Slovenia and then Austria to connect with the main European pipeline network. It is estimated to cost 16.5 billion euros ($21.5 billion), with 7.5 billion coming from Russia. Its planned capacity is 63 billion cubic meters per year, with the underwater part of the pipeline spanning 900 kilometres.
Gazprom chief Alexei Miller said that the first gas deliveries via the pipeline were planned for December 2015.
The project has faced criticism for taking the ambitious option of building a new pipeline rather than upgrading existing infrastructure in Ukraine, which analysts say is in urgent need of modernisation.