( RIA Novosti ) - Bulgaria approved on Friday a $15 billion project to build a pipeline to pump Russian natural gas to southern Europe via the Black Sea, the country's prime minister announced.
Sergei Stanishev said Russia and Bulgaria had managed to settle differences over the project, to be implemented by Russia's Gazprom and Italy's Eni.
Opening talks with Russian First Deputy Prime Minister and Gazprom board chairman Dmitry Medvedev, which followed a Bulgarian Cabinet session, Stanishev said: "The government has approved the deal, and [Economy and Energy Minister Petar] Dimitrov is authorized to sign it."
The South Stream agreement will be signed later in the day as part of President Vladimir Putin's official visit to the country. Medvedev, who is widely expected to replace Putin as president in spring, is accompanying the incumbent on his trip.
Russia has been pushing for the South Stream, a rival project to the EU and U.S.-backed Nabucco pipeline, which aims to supply Europe with Central Asian gas via Turkey, bypassing Russia.
The new pipeline is set run from Russia's Black Sea coast under the sea to Bulgaria, where it will branch off to different destinations in the European Union, supplying 30 billion cu m of gas annually. Possible routes for the land section are still being discussed.