Russian gas monopoly Gazprom said on June 23 that it started laying the Turkish Stream gas pipeline in the deep-water area off the coast of Anapa.

According to Gazprom, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave the command to launch the operations during his visit to the Pioneering Spirit pipe-laying vessel.

Putin and Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller explored the machinery and equipment of the vessel, including its gas pipeline construction facility used for welding and applying protective coatings to pipes.

“Pioneering Spirit, the world’s largest construction vessel, will have an important task to solve, namely to build the deep-water section of the TurkStream gas pipeline,” Miller said, adding that this is a new direct and reliable route for Russian gas supplies to Turkey and further to southern and southeastern Europe.

However, experts say that while the first pipeline to Turkey will be built, the second pipeline that would most likely deliver gas to the Turkish-Greek border and onto southern Europe remains uncertain and depends on its compliance with EU law.

For Turkey natural gas is the key energy source accounting for 38% in the country’s electricity generation and used for heating and cooking in upward of 12 million households, Miller said, arguing that Turkish Stream would substantially increase energy security in the region.

“Natural gas is of equal importance to southern and southeastern Europe. The declining indigenous gas production and the necessity to reduce coal’s share in electricity generation across the Balkan countries create the potential for sustainable growth in natural gas demand in that part of Europe,” Miller said.

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