The construction of the South Stream pipeline, a project designed to carry Russian natural gas under the Black Sea to Italy, was formally launched on Friday.
"Today, on the site of Russkaya compressor station in the region of Anapa, near Krasnodar, a formal ceremony marking the start of construction of South Stream gas pipeline took place," Gazprom said in a statement.
South Stream, a project initiated by Gazprom and Italy's Eni, is expected to carry 63 billion cubic metres of Russian natural gas per year under the Black Sea to Europe. Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and Hungary are partners in the onshore section of the pipeline.
The official ceremony was attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin and representatives of Eni, France's EDF, Germany's BASF, South Stream Transport, Serbian state-owned gas company Srbijagas, Slovenian state-owned gas network operator Plinovodi, Hungarian power utility MVM OVIT and the Bulgarian Energy Holding.
"The start-up of South Stream construction is indeed a historical event. The project embodies the intention of Russia and the countries of Southern and Central Europe to strengthen the partnership in the energy sector and to create a new reliable system of Russian gas supplies to European consumers," Gazprom quoted the company's management committee chairman Alexey Miller as saying. "South Stream is a comprehensive infrastructure project that gives a powerful impetus to development of the economies in the participating countries."
First gas supplies via the gas pipeline are expected in late 2015.