Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has presided over the ceremonial opening of the Serbian section of the Russia-led Balkan Stream natural-gas pipeline.
In a televised event from the settlement of Gospodjinci near Novy Sad on January 1, Vucic proclaimed the 403-kilometer pipeline segment open. The ceremony had been postponed from December 30 without any explanation.
“A big day for Serbia!” Vucic posted on Instagram. During the event, he praised the project as “key for Serbia’s future development.”
Russian Ambassador to Serbia Aleksandr Botsan-Kharchenko, Srbijagas Director-General Dusan Bajatovic, and representatives of Russian gas and construction firms attended the event.
Bosan-Kharchenko said the pipeline will “provide energy security also for the wider region, Central Europe.”
The pipeline segment is part of the larger TurkStream pipeline, which supplies Russian natural gas to Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Hungary.
Speaking to journalists on December 25, Vucic said the government plans to extend the pipeline within Serbia to supply gas to the cities of Vranje and Valjevo.
“We will lay gas lines to bring new factories and investors there and to supply gas to the population,” he said.
Like the Nord Stream pipeline project across the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany, TurkStream is intended to divert Russian gas supplies from transiting through Ukraine.
In July 2020, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described both projects as “Kremlin tools” to expand European dependence on Russian energy supplies and to undermine Ukraine.
In 2019, the United States imposed sanctions against companies involved in both projects. The administration of President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized Germany and other European nations for their reliance on Russian energy supplies.
Although it aspires to European Union membership, Serbia is a traditional ally of Russia and has long been dependent on Russian natural gas.