Bulgaria’s caretaker government starts talks to resume gas imports from Russia

Bulgaria’s caretaker government starts talks to resume gas imports from Russia
Energy Minister Rossen Hristov says talks with Gazprom are "inevitable" after Sofia failed to secure enough gas from other sources. / bne IntelliNews
By Denitsa Koseva in Sofia August 22, 2022

Bulgaria’s caretaker government led by Prime Minister Gulub Donev will start talks with Russian Gazprom with the aim of restarting imports of natural gas, caretaker Energy Minister Rossen Hristov said at a press conference on August 22.

The move comes after the government refused to buy six tankers of liquified natural gas from the US and after a statement made by the Russian ambassador to Bulgaria, Eleonora Mitrofanova, that should Bulgaria want to resume imports, this can be done.

The government said earlier in August it would turn down the offer for the cheap tankers of LNG as there were no available slots for unloading them.

“It is now inevitable not to negotiate with Gazprom for resumption of gas supplies under this contract. But one should have no illusions that we only need to send an email to our contractors and the supplies will start immediately,” Hristov said at a press conference live broadcasted by Dnevnik news outlet.

Mitrofanova said that the Russian gas can only be paid for in roubles – which the previous government under Kiril Petkov refused to do, as it would have violated the EU sanctions against Russia and would not be beneficial for Bulgaria in financial terms. As a consequence, Gazprom stopped deliveries at the end of April. Bulgaria’s contract with the Russian company expires at the end of this year.

Hristov also accused the previous government of “doing everything possible [to make] the negotiations to be almost impossible”.

“We have strained relations with Russia to the limit. There has never been such thing [in the relations between the two states]. We have expelled all the diplomats. We have stopped all communication, there has been outrageous written communication,” Hristov said.

Petkov’s government expelled 70 Russian diplomats at the end of June. The former prime minister said at the time that most of them had been working for foreign intelligence services and against Bulgaria’s interests.

Hristov also said that the caretaker government will start negotiations with Azerbaijan to increase the import of gas from there. Petkov negotiated the opportunity of doubling the imports from Azerbaijan shortly before the end of his term.

Meanwhile, the government has replaced the management of Bulgargaz, accusing its former managers of also being responsible for the stopping of supplies from Russia. The new management is expected to be willing to negotiate a resumption of supplies with Gazprom.