Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has met Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Rome to sign an agreement on the planned South Stream natural gas pipeline.
The project is a joint venture between Eni, one of Italy’s biggest energy companies and Russia’s Gazprom.
Gas will be pumped from the Caspian area under the Black Sea, through the Balkans and into Southern and Northern Italy.
Europe is the biggest buyer of Russian gas.
Britain plans to start piping gas directly from Russia for the first time in 2012 via the North Stream pipeline.
President Medvedev said: “The South Stream, as well as the North Stream, aims to make European energy secure and so everyone wins if both projects become realities.”
Disputes between Russia and Ukraine have resulted in gas shortages in Italy, as well as elsewhere in Europe, in recent years.
Prime Minister Berlusconi said: “Our goal is that the South Stream does not cross Ukrainian territory. That’s why we’ve made every effort to convince Turkey to allow the South Stream through its territorial waters.”
French energy giant EDF is negotiating a 10 percent stake in the project.