Russian energy analyst Sergey Pravosudov said that Russia "is not going to blackmail anyone" and that it is not up in arms about the Eastring project "from purely commercial considerations."
"At the same time, it is unclear which gas will be used for Eastring," Pravosudov said, expressing doubt about the pipeline will be filled with Azeri natural gas.
He recalled that Baku has already promised to deliver one billion cubic meters of gas to Greece, and one billion more to Bulgaria, which is why Serbia and Hungary should hardly hope for any gas supplies from Azerbaijan.
"There are arguments that it is possible to use liquefied natural gas (LNG), which will be transported to this pipe from a certain terminal. But as far as I know, there are no contracts on LNG supplies for Eastring. In addition, LNG is always more expensive than pipeline gas," Pravosudov said.
According to him, "Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania are probably not the richest countries in Europe to afford such a luxury [as LNG]."
When asked whether the Eastring project will be able to do without Russian gas, Pravosudov said that such a scenario will only be possible if a directive is issued to prohibit Russia from pumping its gas through Eastring.
"I think no one wants a situation where the pipeline remains empty. As for the Russian gas, it can be transported to Eastring both from the Turkish Stream pipeline and North Stream 2, namely via Slovakia and Hungary," he added.
Pravosudov also said that "we perfectly understand" Slovakia's drive to endorse the Eastring project and remain Europe's major gas transit country.
Slovakia initiated the Eastring gas pipeline project in 2014, after Russia halted the implementation the South Stream project, intended to traverse the Black Sea to deliver Russian natural gas through Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary and Slovenia to Italy and Austria, in order to avoid exporting gas through Ukraine.
Eastring is set to connect Slovakia with the Balkan countries, as well as with the existing gas pipelines in Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and a gas distribution unit due to be built near the Bulgarian city of Varna.
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