* New pipeline to consist of two, 15.75 Bcm/year strings
* Due to start operations at end-2019
* Part of Gazprom plan to avoid Ukraine transit route
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Construction of the offshore section of the TurkStream gas pipeline to send Russian gas to Turkey began on Sunday, project operator Gazprom said in a statement Monday.
The project -- which will consist of two 15.75 Bcm/year pipelines -- is designed to offer a new transit route for Russian gas to Turkey and Europe, bypassing the traditional Ukraine transit corridor.
One of the lines will serve the domestic Turkish market, while the other is planned to link in with other planned pipeline infrastructure to southern Europe.
Both are expected to be operational by the end of 2019.
"Today we have started the practical stage of the project -- the subsea laying of the gas pipeline," Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller said.
"The project is implemented strictly according to plan and by the end of 2019 our Turkish and European consumers will receive a new reliable route for the import of Russian gas," he said.
The laying of the natural gas pipeline is being carried out by Allseas, the contractor for both lines of the offshore link.
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