Russian MP Aleksandr Babakov, a special envoy of Vladimir Putin tried to bribe a Bulgarian deputy energy minister, Bojan Stoyanov, to speed up the South Stream gas pipeline project, claims The New York Times.

In the article “How Putin Forged a Pipeline Deal That Derailed”, Stoyanov, who was member of the caretaker government of Marin Raykov in the spring of 2013, claims he was invited by a friend to have a drink in a Sofia cigar bar, when Babakov surprisingly turned up.

“He (Babakov) wanted to take my temperature on the South Stream,” Stoyanov told the New York Times journalists.

According to Stoyanov, he told Babakov that the project would not reduce Bulgaria’s dependence on Russian gas and would bring marginal economic benefit.

“In not so many words, he said he would make me very comfortable if I would participate and help,” Mr. Stoyanov said, adding that he reported the encounter to Bulgarian intelligence. “I was not pleased by his presumption that I would just set aside and forget Bulgaria’s national interests.”

The article authors Jim Yardley and Jo Becker also claim the Russian state bank VTB showered the country with politically strategic investments, but after the suspension of the project on Bulgarian part in the summer of 2014, started the bank run and the following insolvency of the Corporate Commercial Bank (KTB) in which VTB had a considerable stake.

According to the article the coalition government of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), supported by the far-right Ataka were pushing hard to promote Russian interests.

The article claims that at a secret meeting in 2013, between the then Bulgarian Prime Minister and Gazprom’s head Aleksey Miller was agreed to split the constitution project for the pipeline between the companies of the Russian Oligarch Gennady Timchenko and companies, connected to the controversial DPS MP Delyan Peevski.

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