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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bulgaria Premier Gets Cool Welcome

RIA-NovostiPutin and Stanishev speaking at the opening of the Bulgaria Today industrial exhibition in Moscow on Monday.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev got a frosty reception from Russia's leaders on Monday and expressed no clear hopes that a gas pipeline deal with Moscow would be reached during his two-day official visit.

Not only did President Dmitry Medvedev unexpectedly postpone his meeting with Stanishev with no official explanation, but Prime Minister Vladimir Putin took a jab at Bulgaria during his welcome speech that evoked loud groans from the crowd.

Last week, Putin pulled out of a gas conference in Sofia because the Bulgarian government was not willing to quickly commit to South Stream.

Medvedev's scheduled meeting with Stanishev was postponed at the last minute, leaving only one day -- Tuesday -- for the two sides to hammer out an agreement. The Kremlin declined to give any explanation of the move. Stanishev, when asked to comment, said, "It appears the schedule is dynamically evolving."

Speaking at a welcome event alongside Stanishev, Putin took an apparent jab at Bulgaria's meager investments in Russia. "If Russia's investments [into Bulgaria] add up to hundreds of millions [of dollars], then Bulgaria is only in the neighborhood of some $13 million. This in no way corresponds to what is possible," Putin said.

The reaction of the largely Bulgarian crowd of several hundred people was loud enough to drown out Putin, forcing him to raise his voice.

In his opening speech, Stanishev said South Stream was in both Russia and Bulgaria's interests, but he showed little confidence in a quick agreement.

"Over the coming years, I am certain that this mutually beneficial agreement will develop further," he said.

Stanishev was also careful to point out Bulgaria's role in another pipeline, Nabucco, which is being led by the European Union and stands in direct competition with the South Stream project.