21:54 GMT29 March 2020
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    Bulgaria’s membership in NATO does not bother Russia as Moscow will continue cooperation with Sofia, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday.

    YALTA (Sputnik) — Earlier in the day, a person representing Bulgarians residing in Crimea expressed regret over the fact that Bulgaria's accession to NATO in 2004 had resulted in cooling down of bilateral relations between Moscow and Sofia.

    "It’s a fact [Bulgaria's membership in NATO], but I cannot say we are somehow worried by it… The decision has been made; it is a sovereign choice of the Bulgarian people. We treat it with respect and will work with Bulgaria despite all the difficulties in the implementation of projects, including in the energy sector, such as the South Stream," Putin said.

    The Russian president noted that the implementation of South Stream pipeline would have been beneficial for the Bulgarian economy, but the country's leadership abandoned the project.

    "But this does not mean that we are not going to develop relations with Bulgaria. On the contrary, we consider this country being very close to us," Putin pointed out, adding that Moscow would contribute to the improvement of relations with Sofia.

    In December 2014, Moscow announced the cancellation of its South Stream pipeline that was to transport Russian gas to South Europe. The pipeline was to run across the Black Sea and make landfall in Bulgaria, with Sofia as its gateway and a prime beneficiary.

    Russian canceled the project as European Commission concerns over the project's legality had prompted Bulgaria to halt pipeline construction.


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