Russian President Vladimir Putin is pushing back against Western opposition to his country’s planned South Stream pipeline that would allow Moscow to ship natural gas to European countries without going through Ukraine.
The Russian president spent six hours earlier this week in Vienna where he signed an agreement for the pipeline’s construction in that country.
Putin defended Austrian and Bulgarian cooperation on the pipeline project against political attacks from the West.
Calling for the West to stop pressuring countries along the pipeline route not to cooperate with the Kremlin, Putin said the project is in the interest of Europe and is “not aimed against anyone.”
Edward Chow an energy analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington told VOA the European Union could still block the pipeline’s use.
The European Union, he said, “has the legal authority to stop it from operating on EU territory.”
According to Chow, Russian energy giant Gazprom faces “the financial risk of investing tens of billions of dollars without the guarantee of being able to operate the pipeline.”
Putin has accused the United States of working to block the pipeline to sell its own gas to Europe. An analyst who asked not to be identified because of his firm’s close association with the South Stream pipeline, however, told VOA that American natural gas exports are not “a near term option” for Europe.
He also said the Russians already have a pipeline to Europe that avoids Ukraine.
Russia supplies Europe with almost one third of its natural gas, about half of which flows through pipelines in Ukraine.