The Presidents of Russia and Turkey, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, respectively, officially launched on Wednesday the TurkStream natural gas pipeline designed to ship Russian gas to Turkey?

The Presidents of Russia and Turkey, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, respectively, officially launched on Wednesday the TurkStream natural gas pipeline designed to ship Russian gas to Turkey and markets in southeastern Europe.

Through TurkStream, Russia's gas giant Gazprom will carry pipeline gas to Turkey and south and southeastern Europe?a region already heavily dependent on Russian gas supplies.?

TurkStream consists of two lines?one to carry gas for the Turkish market, and another to ship the gas further westward on to Bulgaria, Serbia, and potentially Italy and Hungary.

The official launch of the pipeline in Istanbul was also attended by the prime ministers of Bulgaria and Serbia, Boyko Borissov and Aleksandar Vucic, respectively, as well as by Russia's Energy Minister Alexander Novak and Gazprom's management committee chairman Alexey Miller.

?It is important for Bulgaria to receive gas from different sources at competitive prices,? Borissov said on Twitter after the ceremony.

Bulgaria started receiving gas via Turkstream on January 1, while Serbia and North Macedonia began receiving the Russian gas on January 5.

TurkStream extends Russia's dominance in gas supplies to Turkey and southeastern Europe and bypasses Ukraine, with which Russia has strained relations since the annexation of Crimea in 2014. ?

Russia and Ukraine reached a deal on the transit of Russian gas through Ukraine to Europe in the eleventh hour, preventing a potential gas supply crisis during the winter in Europe.

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Commenting on the launch of TurkStream, Gazprom's Miller said in a statement:

?Firstly, taking into account exports via Blue Stream, we have paved the way for direct transit-free supplies to fully meet Turkey's needs for Gazprom's gas. Secondly, Europe now has a new and reliable route to receive Russian pipeline gas.?

?There is no doubt that, thanks to all of this, our cooperation with our Turkish and European partners is shifting to a new level and is going to help improve energy security in the region,? Miller added.

Critics of Russia's energy policy, including the U.S., the Baltic states, Poland, and several other EU countries, say that it is Moscow's gas supply dominance that undermines Europe's energy security.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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Russia's Putin, Turkey's Erdogan Launch TurkStream Gas Pipeline

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