Bulgaria’s Energy Minister Alexander Nikolov told CNN on Wednesday that his government was open to exploring legal ramifications against Moscow after Russian energy giant Gazprom shut off gas supplies to the country.
“Bulgargaz, the state-owned entity, has executed the payment and then the money got returned from Gazprom. If we’re talking about a breach of the contract, then it is absolutely clear from a legal and legislation perspective who has breached the contract,” Nikolov told CNN’s Eleni Giokos in an interview.
When Russia demanded all gas payments be done in rubles, Nikolov said Bulgaria refused to comply and asked for clarification on the details of the mechanism, but did not receive a response from Gazprom.
“We were pretty clear that we will follow a common position regarding the European Union standpoint. We will not accept the fact that one of the parties within the contract decided to change entirely the payment mechanism, so we ended up where we are today … but still we are trying under these tough circumstances to follow all prerequisites under the existing contract,” he added.
Bulgaria has relied on Russia for about 90% of its gas imports, making Moscow’s latest move a disruption to most of the country’s energy supplies. The energy minister said Bulgaria has examined all possible solutions in terms of energy diversification, and is trying to extend its partnerships with other regions.
He pointed to some progress on a long-delayed gas link, the Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB) between Bulgaria and its neighbor Greece.
“Practically, coming from 90% to zero is of course going to be tough and of course we’ll have a price to pay, but at the end of the day, sovereignty and solidarity is much more important,” he said.
“We are on the eastern flank, the closest possible to Russia, where war is coming to a different dimension. Utility is being used not only as an energy tool but as a social distress tool and an economic weapon,” the minister continued.