Russian gas giant Gazprom has said it will start construction of the South Stream natural-gas pipeline at the end of this year.
The company says in a statement released on its website "in accordance with the instruction of [Russian Prime Minister] Vladimir Putin" to speed up the project Gazprom has adopted a new plan that calls for construction of the pipeline to start in December 2012, instead of 2013.
South Stream aims to eventually bring some 63 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe annually.
The project, with an estimated cost of more than $20 billion, will bring Russian gas along the bottom of the Black Sea to the Bulgarian coast and further inland to Austria and Italy.
compiled from agency reports