On an official visit to Bulgaria yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed his country’s interest in the construction of a pipeline between the Bulgarian port of Burgas on the Black Sea and the northern Aegean port of Alexandroupolis in Greece. Greece, Bulgaria and Russia are all involved in the proposed pipeline, which will allow oil from the Caucasus to avoid going through Turkey’s Bosporus strait by tanker. In a joint news conference with Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov, Putin made clear that Russia’s interest in the pipeline was related to the desire by Russian oil company Lukoil to build it on the Bulgarian side of the border. Lukoil, one of Russia’s largest oil companies, has already invested $300 million in Bulgaria, Putin said, referring to the purchase of the country’s largest refinery, which is in Burgas. «Now we are discussing the trilateral Greek-Bulgarian-Russian plan for the construction of the oil pipeline. In this way, another $250 million will be added,» Putin said, according to the Athens News Agency. Bulgaria’s minister of regional development and public works, Valentin Ivanov Cerovski, predicted that, following these talks, Russia would soon sign a memorandum on the construction of the pipeline. On January 29, Greece and Bulgaria signed a memorandum of cooperation for completion of the construction of the 312-kilometer-long (193-mile) pipeline. A proposed meeting on December 3, during which the three countries were to sign a memorandum of cooperation, was postponed at Russia’s request. Greece, Bulgaria and Russia have equal stakes in the project and a share of 227 million euros each. Cerovski said in January that Greece and Bulgaria will seek EU financial aid amounting to 100-120 million euros for the pipeline project.