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Greece to help Bulgaria after Russia cut gas supply

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Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis speaks during an interview with Reuters in Athens, Greece April 8, 2019. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis/File Photo

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ATHENS, April 27 (Reuters) – Greece will offer aid to Bulgaria after Russia cut off its gas supply, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told his Bulgarian counterpart on Wednesday.

The two leaders discussed the matter over the phone.

“The prime minister said that Greece will help Bulgaria deal with the new situation caused by Russian energy decisions,” Mitsotakis’ office said in a statement, without providing further details.

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Russian gas producer Gazprom (GAZP.MM) said on Wednesday it had cut off gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland for failing to pay for gas in rubles, the harshest of the Kremlin’s retaliation for sanctions international organizations against the war in Ukraine. Read more

A Greek source familiar with the matter told Reuters that Athens could help Sofia by reversing the flow of the TurkStream gas pipeline, a mechanism that has been used before. The pipeline carries Russian gas to Greece via the Black Sea, Turkey and Bulgaria.

Mitsotakis said a long-delayed gas link between the two neighbors, the Greece-Bulgaria Interconnector (IGB), should be ready by June, Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said.

“He (Mitsotakis) also confirmed joint actions for diversification into liquefied natural gas,” Petkov added.

Mitsotakis called an emergency meeting on Wednesday with representatives of the energy sector to discuss the impact of Gazprom’s decision on gas supplies to Greece, his office said.

Greece depends on Russian gas for more than 30% of its annual energy needs and its next payment to Gazprom is due in May under a contract that expires in 2026.

Athens has not yet specified how it will make the payment, but it has said it may be able to avoid gas supply problems indefinitely, even if Russia halts flows.

Under a contingency plan, Greece said it could get additional liquefied gas and pipeline from Azerbaijan and switch four gas-fired power stations to diesel. It will also accelerate coal mining over the next two years as a temporary measure.

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Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou and Renee Maltezou in Athens, Tsvetelia Tsolova in Sofia; edited by Jason Neely and John Stonestreet

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