BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) -- Russia's foreign minister insists the EU's order to halt construction work on the South Stream pipeline in Bulgaria is only a brief delay in the project planned to bypass Ukraine as a transit country and consolidate Russia's energy grip in Europe.
Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday "there are absolutely no changes in plans, I have absolutely no doubt that this halt is only temporary."
The South Stream pipeline, in which Russian state gas company Gazprom holds a 50-percent stake, would provide an alternative supply route for Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, Slovenia, Austria and Italy from 2018.
Bulgaria froze work upon orders of the European Commission, which said Bulgaria hadn't respected rules on awarding public contracts. The Commission has also delayed some political talks on the pipeline amid the Ukrainian crisis.