President Putin Arrives on Official Visit In Sofia

President Putin Arrives on Official Visit In Sofia

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Sofia Thursday evening on a two-day official visit at the invitation of his Bulgarian counterpart Georgi Purvanov, BTA is reporting. He is here for the start of year-long festivities marking the 130th anniversary of Bulgaria's liberation from Ottoman rule and for the signing of a number of agreements, including several in the energy sector.

This is President Putin's second visit to this country since his March 2003 stopover.

At Sofia Airport Putin was met by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ivailo Kalfin, the Chef de Cabinet of the President Nikola Kolev, advisers of the head of state, the Ambassador of Russia to Bulgaria Anatoly Potapov and the Bulgarian Ambassador in Moscow Plamen Grozdanov.

The official welcome ceremony is Friday morning.

The wife of the Russian President, Lyudmila Putina, did not arrive with him. According to diplomatic sources, last moment health reasons prevented her from accompanying him on his visit to Bulgaria.

A gala concert at Sofia's National Palace of Culture will open the President's stay, at which eminent Russian performers will unveil Bulgaria's Year of Russia.

A one-to-one meeting of the two heads of state will then take place, followed by plenary discussions between their official delegations. A joint press conference will follow. President Putin will then meet with Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev and with National Assembly Chairman Georgi Pirinski.

Putin is accompanied by First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitriy Medvedev, Presidential Aide Sergei Prikhodko, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Transport Minister Igor Levitin, Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko, Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom), Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and Mikhail Margelov, Chairman of the
Federation Council Foreign Affairs Committee.

ITAR-TASS has reported that Russian business is represented by Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller, Rosneft President Sergey Bogdanchikov, LUKOIL President Vagit Alekperov, Stroytransgas
President Victor Lorents, AtomStroyExport President Sergey Shmatko, Mechel mining and metals company CEO Igor Zyuzin and Transneft Vice President Mikhail Barkov.

The agenda of the visit is expected to include the Bourgas-Alexandroupolis, South Stream and Nabucco projects. Foreign Minister Ivailo Kalfin told reporters on Thursday that talks on South Stream were still on, the Bulgarian side has formulated its position on the project but is not ready to sign an agreement during President Putin's visit.

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