Gazprom says first pipes for South Stream set for summer delivery -

MOSCOW, April 16 (UPI) -- The first section of pipeline for the planned South Stream natural gas network for Europe has been manufactured, Russian energy company Gazprom said.

Gazprom said pipe No. 1 -- a 39-foot long, 32-inch diameter section -- was produced from the Vyksa Steel Works plant in eastern Russia.

South Stream is a gas transit network Gazprom plans as a way to avoid geopolitically-sensitive territory in Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin said European energy security is at risk because Kiev is struggling to pay its gas bills.

Ukraine hosts the bulk of the Russian natural gas bound for European consumers.

Gazprom said Tuesday the first sections of pipe are scheduled for summer delivery in Bulgaria. Construction of the first leg of the pipeline is scheduled for late 2014.

Gazprom Chairman Alexei Miller met in Strasbourg, France, with European Energy Commissioner Gunter Oettinger to discuss energy issues in the European Union.

"It was pointed out that Gazprom was a reliable supplier of natural gas to the European market and would retain this position in the future," the Russian company said in a statement.

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