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Bulgaria: Gazprom Defuses Dispute With Moscow

Prague, 20 November 1997 (RFE/RL) - Shareholders of a Russian-Bulgarian pipeline venture have taken steps to defuse a dispute between Bulgaria and Moscow over natural gas deliveries.

Shareholders in TopEnergy, which is 50 percent owned by Russia's gas monopoly Gazprom, voted on Sunday to cut controversial private Bulgarian firm Multigroup out of the project. The vote requires Multigroup and its subsidiaries to sell their stakes in TopEnergy by Dec. 16 to the state-owned Bulgargaz. With the vote, Gazprom is no longer insisting that Multigroup control gas deliveries in Bulgaria.

Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nadezhda Mihailova said last month that Sofia's dispute with Gazprom over Multigroup was affecting political relations with Moscow. The pro-western government of Prime Minister Ivan Kostov is wary about Multigroup because of its alleged links to Sofia's totalitarian-era ruling elite and to criminal groups that have evolved in Sofia since 1989.