Moscow (AFP) - Russia's Gazprom giant on Wednesday urged the European Union to link up to its planned energy pipeline to Turkey or lose the gas that now transits Ukraine.
Gazprom chief Alexei Miller reminded the new European Commissioner for Energy Union, Maros Sefcovic that the South Stream project to deliver gas to Europe through Ukraine has been scrapped.
Hence, "the Turkish Stream is the only route along which 63 billion cubic metres of Russian gas can be supplied, which at present transit Ukraine. There are no other options," he said.
As relations between the European Union and Russia sank to a new low since the Cold War over Moscow's role in the Ukraine conflict, President Vladimir Putin in December said the South Stream project had been scrapped.
The South Stream pipeline would have bypassed Ukraine and flowed underneath Turkey's waters in the Black Sea and through the Balkans, crossing Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Slovenia and then Austria to connect with the main European pipeline network.
Instead, Russia now plans to build a new gas pipeline to Turkey, which it already supplies through an existing pipeline called Blue Stream, turning Turkey into a key transit centre for Russian gas.
Turkey is the second-largest European importer of Russian gas after Germany.
"Our European partners have been informed of this and now their task is to create the necessary gas transport infrastructure from the Greek and Turkish border," said Miller, according to a Gazprom statement.
"They have a couple of years at most to do this. It's a very, very tight deadline. In order to meet the deadline, the work on building new trunk gas pipelines in European Union countries must start immediately today," Miller warned.
"Otherwise, these volumes of gas could end up in other markets."
Moscow blamed the European Union for the cancellation of the South Stream project, saying Brussels imposed conditions that building the pipeline impossible, such as demanding that Gazprom allow other producers to use its pipelines.
Russia is seeking to diversify its gas exports away from its current markets of the former Soviet Union and Europe and last year Gazprom signed its first contract with China, which it is due to start supplying in 2018.
The European Union is Gazprom's main client outside Russia and a major portion of Russian gas flows through Ukraine.