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Bulgarian candidate says not anti-Russia
by Staff Writers
Sofia, Bulgaria (UPI) Oct 11, 2011

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The presidential candidate of Bulgaria's ruling party says he won't be "anti-Russian" despite recent disagreements with Moscow over energy projects.

Rosen Plevneliev, the presidential candidate of the ruling center-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria Party, told reporters Sunday fears among some in Russia that he wouldn't be as pro-Moscow as outgoing President Georgi Parvanov were unfounded.

The relationship between Bulgaria and Russia has been tested due to disagreements about energy projects in recent months -- last year Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov ended an agreement to construct the Burgas-Alexandroupoli natural gas pipeline between the countries.

Borisov also moved to indefinitely shelve the Belene nuclear power plant project -- which was supposed to be constructed by Russian state company Atomstroyexport -- after haggling over prices.

Those two projects, as well as agreement on the Bulgarian section of the South Stream gas transit pipeline, were hailed in Moscow as evidence that Parvanov was a willing and reliable partner with Russia -- the trio of deals was dubbed the "Grand Slam."

Now only the South Stream project remains on track.

An article published last month in the Moscow business newspaper Kommersant warned that "if Mr. Plevneliev is elected head of state, Russia will lose a key partner in Bulgaria -- current President Georgi Parvanov."

But Plevneliev, who has a big lead in the polls in the run-up to the Oct. 23 election, said he isn't going to be predisposed to anti-Russian bias, the Sofia News Agency reported.

"The energy projects cannot be realized at any cost and simply because they are Russian," he said. "An energy project can be realized only after we get the figures on the table and get a complete justification of its purpose."

Plevneliev, a former construction engineer, was regional development minister in the Borisov Cabinet before embarking on his presidential run.

A poll conducted by the National Center for Study of Public Opinion indicted Plevneliev with 32 percent support, followed by Bulgarian Socialist Party candidate Ivaylo Kalfin with 18 percent and former EU Commissioner Meglena Kuneva third with 9 percent, the news agency said.

"Bulgaria's relations with Russia are not solely limited to energy ties and the 'Grand Slam,' but our nations are also connected with great friendship feelings and economic ties," the front-runner said.

He vowed he would work to improve relations with Moscow, citing this as evidence his administration would not be "anti-Russian."

However, he did tell the news agency he would continue work to complete the Bulgaria-Turkey and Bulgaria-Greece gas interconnectors by 2013 and finish the Bulgaria-Serbia and Bulgaria-Romania interconnectors by 2014 in a bid to lessen Sofia's now-complete dependence on Russian supplies.

Those projects, Plevneliev said, are needed to assure Bulgaria's "energy security and independence" in the wake of the January 2009 "gas war" between Russia and Ukraine that left Bulgaria and other European nations shivering during a supply cut-off.

"Our country will not be Russia's Trojan horse, it will be Russia's door to Europe and European door to Russia," he told ITAR-Tass.

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