The FINANCIAL - According to RIA Novosti, Russia and Bulgaria could sign an agreement on building a gas pipeline to run under the Black Sea directly from Russia to the European Union in January, a Russian official said on November 12.
Russian energy giant Gazprom and Italian oil and gas company Eni S.p.A. agreed in June to build the South Stream pipeline, which will deliver 30 billion cubic meters of gas annually via Bulgaria to Austria, Slovenia and Italy.
"We have set ourselves a task of signing the deal in January," Russian Deputy Industry and Energy Minister Anatoly Yanovsky said, adding that the project would contribute to improving global energy security.
Russian Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko earlier said Austria and Italy would be the final destination points of the South Stream gas pipeline.
The South Stream project, announced by Gazprom in June, replaces previous plans to extend the Blue Stream pipeline which runs from Russia to Turkey.
Russia's state gas monopoly has actively sought new export routes to avoid transit countries since a gas supply dispute with Ukraine at the beginning of last year. The company is currently working on the Nord Stream pipeline with Germany's E.ON and BASF, which will link Russia to Germany via the Baltic seabed.