Greece and Bulgaria are extending their gas deal in consideration of Russia.

Greek Prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, left, welcomes Bulgaria's President Rumen Radev before their meeting at Maximos Mansion, in Athens, Greece, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Under an agreement signed in Athens on Thursday, Greece will gain access to Bulgaria’s gas storage facilities in exchange for Bulgaria’s expanded use of a liquefied natural gas terminal near Athens.

Russian gas supplier Gazprom halted gas deliveries to Bulgaria over a payment mechanism dispute last April, two months after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. Greece has also drastically reduced Russian gas imports over the past year.

“For one year now, Russian (aggression) has been held back by the brave defense of the Ukrainian people, but it continues to cause economic pain by turning energy into a means of blackmail,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said after meeting President Rumen Radev of Bulgaria.

“The only option we have is to speed up our effort to reduce our need for Russian gas.”

Greece and Bulgaria signed the deal on Thursday, four months after they connected their natural gas grid pipelines. This gave Bulgaria access to the LNG market through Greece’s ports.

The European Union and the United States gave the project a lot of support. It was a big deal, and it could help other Balkan countries become less reliant on Russian gas if the pipeline system in the area kept getting changed.

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