MOSCOW -- Russia's EU envoy on Monday slammed Bulgaria's decision to suspend work on a Kremlin-backed South Stream gas pipeline under pressure from Brussels, calling it a "creeping shift to economic sanctions against Russia."
"It is hard to shake off the feeling that the European Commission's blocking of the start of work on the construction of Bulgaria's key section of South Stream has been done for purely political purposes," Vladimir Chizhov told the state news agency ITAR-TASS.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski announced on Sunday that he had ordered all work on the project to be stopped. The decision came after the EU asked Bulgaria to suspend work on the multinational pipeline designed to bring Russian gas to Europe while bypassing crisis-hit Ukraine.
Also Monday, Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said construction of his country's stretch of the pipeline was continuing, disputing a report that it had followed Bulgaria in halting work.
The South Stream pipeline is a major project for reducing Moscow's reliance on Ukraine as a transit country following disputes with Kiev in 2006 and 2009 that led to interruptions of shipments to Europe.
With a capacity of 63 billion cubic meters per year, the main pipeline will stretch nearly 2,500 kilometers (1,500 miles) from Russia under the Black Sea to Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Slovenia to end in Italy.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014