Russian President Vladimir Putin has inaugurated the deep-water phase of the TurkStream pipeline project that will deliver Russian gas to Turkey and eventually to the European Union.
Putin on June 23 called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from a ship off the Black Sea coast near Anapa in southern Russia to launch the project.
TurkStream is one of several major undersea pipeline projects the Kremlin has pushed in recent years in an effort to bypass older pipeline networks that transit through bitter rival Ukraine.
NordStream sends gas directly from Russia, under the Baltic Sea, to Germany, while the proposed South Stream was supposed to send Russian gas under the Black Sea to Bulgaria. That project was shelved in 2014 after EU opposition and the crisis over Russia’s as annexation of the Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula.
The 910-kilometer TurkStream natural gas pipeline was initially proposed in 2014 but was delayed as Russian-Turkish relations soured over the conflict in Syria before being revitalized by Putin and Erdogan.
Putin on June 23 gave the "Go!" command as he hit a button to launch the latest phase aboard the Pioneering Spirit, a ship that is laying pipe for the project.
Putin credited the Turkish president with helping to get the project moving.
"The work has already started. I want to thank you once more and congratulate you on this," Putin told Erdogan in comments covered live by Russian state-controlled Rossiya 24 television channel.
"Undoubtedly this happens directly with your personal support," Putin said.
The project features construction of two lines, each with a capacity of 15.75 billion cubic meters of gas a year. The first is scheduled to be completed in 2018, with the second due to come on line the following year.