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    President Putin's visit to Bulgaria to bring pipeline deal, NPP contract

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    The Russian president's visit to Bulgaria this week will bring a package of deals, including on an ambitious oil pipeline project and a nuclear power plant, the foreign minister said on Monday.

    MOSCOW, January 14 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian president's visit to Bulgaria this week will bring a package of deals, including on an ambitious oil pipeline project and a nuclear power plant, the foreign minister said on Monday.

    "As to documents [to be signed], I would highlight an agreement to set up a company to oversee the construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline, which would involve the two countries and Greece, and a contract to build the Belene NPP," Sergei Lavrov said.

    On March 15, 2007, Russia, Bulgaria, and Greece signed a deal on a pipeline to carry Russian oil via the Bulgarian Black Sea port of Burgas and Greece's Alexandroupolis on the Aegean, as an alternative route to bypass the congested Bosporus.

    Once completed, the pipeline will pump 35 million metric tons of oil a year (257.25 million bbl), a volume that could eventually be increased to 50 million metric tons (367.5 million bbl).

    Russia was reported to have a 51% stake in the company.

    The Russian-Bulgarian agreement on a nuclear power plant in the town of Belene on the bank of the Danube has been approved by the European Union. Russia's state-owned nuclear equipment monopoly, Atomstroyexport, which won a tender in 2006, is to build two reactors at the Balkan state's second nuclear power plant. The cost of the project is estimated at around 4 billion euros (around $6 billion).

    Lavrov said Russia and Bulgaria would also sign a deal to build a railroad ferry linking Russia's Kavkaz port in the Kerch Strait, which links the Black and Azov seas, to Bulgaria's Varna port in order to facilitate cargo movement.

    He said more agreements could be signed during Vladimir Putin's visit to the country, which would also be timed to coincide with celebrations of the 130th anniversary of the liberation of Bulgaria from Ottoman rule by a force led by Russia's Tsar Alexander II. Bulgarians referred the Alexander II as the Tsar Liberator. Putin will also attend a ceremony to open the cultural program of 'Russian Year in Bulgaria'.

    Russia's energy deals with Bulgaria and other south European states - including a natural gas pipeline South Stream to be build under the Black Sea to supply 30 billion cubic meters of gas to the EU annually - have triggered concern in Europe about its growing energy dependence on Moscow.