Slovenia will sign on to the South Stream gas pipeline transporting Russian gas to Europe, an official said.

The deal will be signed later Saturday by Slovenia Prime Minister Borut Pahor and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, according to Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. The pipeline is being funded by Russia’s Gazprom and Italy’s Eni state gas companies.

South Stream is expected to come online in 2015 and will take Russian gas under the Black Sea -- bypassing current transit state Ukraine -- and enter the European Union through Bulgaria.

Serbia, Hungary, Greece, Austria and Italy also lie along the route of the 63 billion-cubic meter-capacity pipeline, which is viewed as competition for a Western-backed supply line that bypasses Russia.

The so-called Nabucco pipeline, also scheduled for 2015, would deliver gas from the Caspian Sea region westward via the Caucasus. It would decrease dependence on existing Russian pipelines to Europe, which gets about one-quarter of its gas from Russia.

Austria, seen as a staunch backer of Nabucco, signaled earlier this week that signing up to South Stream was a possibility.

Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann said at a Moscow meeting with Putin on Wednesday that South Stream represented “diversification as well as a chance to make the energy supply more secure.”

EU concerns about reliance on Russia for energy deepened after a two-week shutdown of Russian gas supplies to Ukraine last January led to severe shortages in several European countries.

Russian officials have said they fear renewed shutoffs this winter.

More In: International | News