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Bulgaria confident it can replace gas cut off by Russia

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Bulgaria can replace its entire Russian gas supply from other sources and will not face a gas shortage in the coming winter, Deputy Prime Minister Assen Vassilev said on Thursday, a day after Gazprom cut flows to the Balkan country.

Gazprom cut Bulgaria and Poland off from its gas on Wednesday for refusing to pay in rubles. Bulgaria consumes about 3 billion cubic meters of gas per year, of which over 90 percent comes from Russia.

“We can replace the entire Russian gas supply with gas supply from the southern gas corridor, plus LNG deliveries in Greece and Turkey, and that plan is being executed right now,” Vassilev, who is also finance minister, told reporters in Brussels.

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“There will be no supply problem, even in the winter,” he said after talks with senior EU officials also attended by Bulgaria’s Energy Minister Alexander Nikolov.

Vassilev said the dollars Bulgaria had intended to use to pay Gazprom for its April supplies had been returned and that Sofia was not currently in talks with the Russian company to resolve the issue.

He said his discussions in Brussels had covered EU plans for common gas purchases, a decision due to be taken in mid-May.

In March, Moscow issued a decree stipulating that energy buyers must open accounts at Gazprombank to make payments in euros or dollars, which would then be converted to rubles, and paid to gas supplier Gazprom.

The European Commission has said EU companies should continue to pay the currency agreed in their contracts with Gazprom – 97 percent of which are in euros or dollars.

In Sofia, Economy Minister Kornelia Ninova and employer organizations expressed concerns over the halt in Russian gas supplies and urged the coalition government to do everything possible to resume talks with Gazprom.

Employers are worried that alternative gas supplies will be 30 percent to 40 percent more expensive and will hit businesses and further boost already double-digit inflation in the European Union’s poorest member state.

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