The Russian and Bulgarian leaders have signed a gas deal that puts Sofia at odds with Brussels, which backs a rival project.
President Vladimir Putin, making possibly his last foreign trip before standing down, finalised the agreement with President Georgei Parvanov in the Bulgarian capital earlier today.
The South Stream pipeline will carry Russian gas under the Black Sea to the Bulgarian coast and from there to southern Europe. It will bring Bulgaria much-needed revenue and a role as a regional energy hub.
The deal also boosts relations between the former Soviet-era allies. They have been undermined by Bulgaria’s membership of the European Union and NATO.
But it could also have an impact on the new EU member’s ties with the rest of the bloc. The Union backs the rival Nabucco plan to pipe Central Asian gas to Europe. Brussels hopes it will lessen its dependence on the sometimes volatile Russian gas supply.