pre-election train bombs
Moscow Theatre Siege
Twin Air crash
Beslan school atrocity
Putin sets up youth brigade to tighten grip
With President Putin's popularity in sharp decline, the Kremlin has set up a new Russian youth movement to ensure its control of the streets in the event of mass anti-government protests.
Hundreds of youths, many belonging to the president's cultural society "Walking Together", held a meeting in a house owned by the Kremlin Property Department to launch the group at the weekend. The organisation, which leaders hope will attract 300,000 members, was christened "Nashi" [Ours], a word which in Russian has chilling nationalist overtones.
When two outsiders - one from an opposition party, the other a journalist - sneaked into its founding conference, they were humiliated and one was beaten.
The latest move by the Kremlin to shore up its rule comes after claims that it has been using infiltrators to stir trouble at anti-government rallies, giving the police an excuse to disperse them.
In the eyes of many, the tactics are more reminiscent of the Hitler Youth of pre-war Germany than of the supposed democracy in Russia whose health Mr Putin indignantly defended when he met President George W Bush last week. Andrei Pointkowsky, director of the Centre for Strategic Studies, said: "Putin is behind this. Scared by the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, the Kremlin is trying to form a Putin Jugend to suppress future opposition. - Telegraph
Banned Nationalist Party Holds Anti-Semitic Rally in Central Moscow
Rabbi Falls Victim to Hate Attack in Moscow
President of the Magen League, Professor and Rabbi Alexander Lakshin was attacked in Moscow on Friday evening, the Interfax news agency reported on Monday citing a source in the Federation of Russian Jewish Communities.
Lakshin, his friend Rabbi Ruven Kuravsky and two brothers of the rabbi's wife, aged nine and ten, were returning home after visiting friends.
Six or seven young men, aged from 16 to 25, saw the rabbis in an underground crossing on Sushchevsky Val street and began shouting anti-Semitic insults. The rabbis took the children's hands and separated in an attempt to escape from the attackers.
Lakshin was seriously injured, but his condition is not critical, the agency reported.
Nazi-like "training camps" have sprung up in southern Russia, providing an environment where young people are indoctrinated in ultra-nationalistic and anti-Semitic doctrine. Recruits are also trained in the use of assault weapons, explosives, and other terrorist techniques.
No wonder many observers are warning that it is only a matter of time before a full-blown persecution of the Jewish people breaks out again in Russia.
Redemption 2000 faqsheet CJF ministries
"...analysts fear Putin's patriotic drive for a strong state may be fuelling the rise of nationalism. The Kremlin has placed considerable emphasis on 'patriotic education' and even started introducing Soviet-era lessons in which students learn to strip an AK-47. "
Skinheads thrive as nationalist tide rises in Russia
Russian MPs Bring Shame to Soviet Liberators of Aushchwitz
Created: 25.01.2005 14:01 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 14:01 MSK, 11 hours 15 minutes ago
As Russia prepared to take part in commemorating the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland, and just ahead of President Vladimir Putin's visit to the memorial, hundreds of Russian nationalists including 19 parliamentarians asked Russia's prosecutor to ban all Jewish organizations in the country as extremist.
"Let us assure you, Mr. Prosecutor-General, that there are a large number of well-established facts which lead to the indisputable conclusion: the negative assessment by Russian patriots of typical Jewish qualities and [their] actions against non-Jews are based on true facts and what is more these actions are not accidental, but prescribed by Judaism and have been practiced over the past 2000 years," the document, signed by Rodina party member Alexander Krutov, read. - MosNews
Russian MPs Retract Demand to Ban Jewish Organizations
Editor of Forbes Magazine's Russian edition,
Paul Klebnikov (AP Photo / Misha Japaridze)
Putin shutters last independent talk show
Moscow, Russia, Jul. 9 (UPI) -- Russia's last independent political TV talk show is being shut down, the Times of London reported Friday.
"Freedom of Speech" was scheduled for closure after its Friday broadcast, just four days after the company's chief was fired by Gazprom, the state energy company that acquired NTV in 2001.
The political talk show, known as "Svoboda Slova," is one of NTV's most popular shows, pulling in high ratings with its political debates during the past election campaign seasons.
Vladimir Kulistikov, who was brought in from state channel Rossia and installed Monday as NTV general director, is formally responsible for the shutdown.
But the move is widely seen as another step in President Vladimir Putin's ongoing consolidation of media control.
"This is the final stage of turning NTV into an ordinary state channel," Igor Yakovenko, head of the Union of Journalists, said. "Now television viewers can throw away the remote control because all the channels will be the same."
Most Russians rely on television for their news, and there are only three channels which cover all of its 11 time zones -- NTV, Rossiya and First Channel, the Moscow Times said. The latter two are both owned by the state. -
Washington Times [moonie]
Russian editor of Forbes found murdered: report
MOSCOW Paul Klebnikov, the editor of Forbes Magazine's Russian edition and author of a book about tycoon Boris Berezovsky, was shot and killed late Friday near his Moscow office, Russian news reports said.
The reports cited Moscow police as saying Klebnikov suffered four pistol shots and died in a rescue-squad vehicle. The radio station Ekho Moskvy said shells of two different caliber were found at the scene, indicating at least two attackers.
Police and Forbes officials could not immediately be reached for confirmation.
Forbes started its Russian-language edition in April. Klebnikov, U.S.-born of Russian heritage, previously had been a senior editor with the U.S.-based Forbes.
In May, the magazine attracted wide attention by publishing a list of Russia's wealthiest people, claiming that Moscow had more billionaires who worked there or amassed their fortunes there than any other city in the world.
"Here people fly and fall with staggering speed," Klebnikov said at a news conference when the list was released.
His 2000 book "Godfather of the Kremlin: Boris Berezovsky and the Looting of Russia" described how Berezovsky, now living in exile in Britain, allegedly siphoned hundreds of millions of dollars out of Russia.
After Klebnikov wrote a profile of Berezovsky for Forbes in 1996, Berezovsky filed a libel suit against the magazine in Britain.
The tycoon withdrew the suit in 2003 after the publication acknowledged it was wrong to allege he was involved in the murder of a television personality.
Moscow magazine editor murdered
17 July 2004
The body of a Moscow magazine editor has been found on a city ring road, Russian media reports.
Prosecutors are treating the death of Payl Peloyan, editor of Armyanski Pereulok (Armenian Lane), as murder, according to RIA Novosti news agency.
He was found with knife wounds to his chest and bruises on his face, a police spokesperson was quoted as saying.
Russian police said the body of Mr Peloyan was found at the side of the MKAD highway encircling Moscow at 0700 (0300GMT) on Saturday.
They were reportedly not ruling out the possibility his death was linked to his work at the Russian-language arts and literature magazine serving the Armenian community.
Russia bars star TV news presenter from studio
Saturday 26th November, 2005
A prominent Russian TV journalist said Friday she has been barred from anchoring her analytical news show in what is seen by critics as a government attempt to silence a television station. Olga Romanova was the star news presenter on the nightly program 24, which in recent years was seen as the last TV broadcast still free from state control. But when she arrived for work on Thursday, security guards barred her from entering the studio. She says the men were not from the TV station, but said they had orders to keep her out. They asked her to give them a certificate stating she was ill, but she replied she was perfectly healthy and ready to go on the air.
Ms. Romanova's program was carried on REN-TV, a channel that broadcast mostly to Moscow and its surrounding region. Ren-TV's general director denied there was anything political in the decision to take her off the air, saying it all had to do with falling ratings for her program. But when the channel's majority interest was sold earlier this year to two companies linked to the Kremlin, analysts said it was only a matter of time before it would follow most other networks and fall under some degree of state control, even if indirectly.
Alexander Petrov is deputy head of the Moscow branch of the watchdog organization, Human Rights Watch. He says the channels have all become just like one another, in the tone of their commentaries and the way they are presented. He says it is hard to distinguish one channel from another, that this is part of what the government calls 'building vertical power.' But he sees no logical or reasonable explanation for this.
Under President Vladimir Putin, all major Russian broadcasters have gradually come under direct or indirect state control, usually after being sold to owners or businesses tied to the Kremlin. In each case, the new owners pledged that editorial independence would be respected. However it was not long before critical journalists either quit or were forced to resign.
Ms. Romanova says she has received calls of support from many of her colleagues. Frederick Yakovenko of the Russian Journalist's Union told reporters Friday that the Ren-TV case 'closes the last air hole for nationwide political broadcasts, which are now encased in concrete.' Many major newspapers in Moscow remain independent, but, in the past year, some have also fallen victim to the same process.
- Big News Network.com
Worldwide Corporate synarchy - secret wars - intentional mayhem -
The Mob Rules
A pandemic of money laundering, prostitution, immigration fraud, murder, arson, arms dealing and other
criminal activities by the Russian mob -- which has invaded 29 countries and 17 U.S. cities -- would
probably never have occurred on such a frightening scale without the tacit approval of high-ranking U.S.
officials, including President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore and Deputy Secretary of State Strobe
Talbott, according to congressional and law enforcement sources.
The rise of the Russian mob has been meteoric since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
According to law enforcement experts, the mob, which has looted the Russian treasury with the help
of top government officials, spends up to 50 percent of its profits for bribes and other forms of
corruption as a normal business expense. By contrast, the Italian mob considers 6 to 10 percent to
be more than adequate, and the Colombians draw the line at 25 percent. Since the Russian mob annually
generates about $10 billion a year in profits in America, up to $5 billion is available for corruption.
Vice mayor facilitates gambling |
Yeltsin's chosen successor, Vladimir Putin, a former KGB colonel, was tainted by scandal involving the
issuing of licenses to gambling casinos when he was vice mayor of St. Petersburg in the early 1990s.
Much like the enigmatic and alcoholic Yeltsin, since becoming president this year Putin has done little
to stem corruption.
Gore's partner, [former Russian Prime Minister]Chernomyrdin, has been closely associated with a notorious
Russian "businessman" Grigory Loutchansky, who owns five banks in Latvia allegedly controlling about $1.2
billion in offshore accounts for Chernomyrdin.
In 1989, Loutchansky, who had served three years of a seven-year sentence in a Soviet prison for corruption
and embezzlement, established an Austrian company, Nordex, with government funds. In late 1993 and early
1994, U.S. intelligence agencies reportedly intercepted Nordex communications which suggested that
Loutchansky's company was exporting nuclear bomb components to North Korea and Iran. -
Linked: Blairs gambling bill - US casino corporations & The Russian mob?
Las Vegas Sands, one of America's biggest gambling companies, is pressing for fresh amendments to the Gambling Bill following the Government's controversial decision to introduce a cap of eight mega-casinos.
The company, which owns The Venetian casino on the famous Nevada strip, has proposed four amendments which it believes will maximise the regeneration benefits, while reducing the scope for problem gambling.
The company has outlined plans to build mega-casinos, also known as "regional casinos", at Glasgow Rangers, West Ham United and Sheffield United football clubs.
Bigger Is Better, Las Vegas Casino Group Tells Britain
Blairs Gambling bill
Man Utd and MGM in casino talks
Central Asia: Heroin - Weapons...
The conflict area embraces the Muslim lands of former Soviet Central Asia, stretches across the Caucasus
and into Moldova and follows the traditional heroin smuggling route across Turkey to the Balkans. A wide
range of research into the objectives and nature of the struggle has been brought into focus by the
proceedings of a secret conference, apparently penetrated by Russian intelligence, of a diverse group
of Islamic terrorist organizations held recently at the town of Travnik in Bosnia-Herzegovina,
Significantly, the conference forged a united front endorsing the deployment of any means and
collaboration with any potential ally in pursuit of jihad. These terrorist groups will be
even more determined to acquire a nuclear weapon after the defeat of Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
Al-Qaeda's desire to obtain nuclear arms is well documented by evidence discovered in bunkers vacated
by the terrorists during the war in Afghanistan. Intelligence sources fear that the terrorists may
already be very close to assembling crude radiological weapons which can scatter nuclear materials
using conventional explosive devices. The collapse of Soviet power has made such an arsenal readily
available. A lot of radioactive material originally used by hospitals, industry and research
institutions lies unaccounted and abandoned in the former Soviet Union - in addition to some 800
tons of weapons grade uranium and 200 tons of plutonium held in poorly guarded stockpiles.
The use of Russian organized criminals in the struggle for nuclear weaponry is probably a new development.
Vladimir Orlov of the Centre for Policy Studies in Moscow recently described at a Washington
conference an unsuccessful attempt by a Russian gang to obtain weapons of mass destruction for
foreign interests. The risks facing the organized criminals in the regions challenged by the
terrorists are relatively low, argue Phil Williams and Paul Woessner of the Ridgway Centre for
International Security Studies, because of the weakness of law enforcement, the prevalence of
corruption and the lack of interdiction skills. -
Yukos Shareholder Nevzlin Says Kremlin Intends to Kill Khodorkovsky
01.11.2005 - MosNews - One of the owners of Yukos oil company's main shareholder, Menatep Group, Leonid Nevzlin, said on Tuesday the Russian authorities intended to kill the jailed former Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Menatep head Platon Lebedev.
During a news conference broadcast online, Nevzlin said the intention to kill Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, of which Khodorkovsky had written in a letter sent from custody, was confirmed by the fact that they were sent so far to remote prison colonies. He also reminded his audience that Khodorkovsky had attempted to register as a candidate for parliament, but failed due to the rapid consideration of his appeal and the sentence that sent him to eight years in prison.
Another well-known convict, retired commando Vladimir Kvachkov, suspected of the attempted murder of the Russian energy chief Anatoly Chubais, was able to register as candidate, Nevzlin pointed out. Nevzlin called the case against Khodorkovsky and Lebedev politically motivated.
Another Menatep owner, Vladimir Brudno, said the case against Yukos' tax debts had been forged by the Russian authorities to buy its main subsidiary, Yuganskneftefaz. He added that the same means had been used by the Russian authorities when buying Sibneft oil company.
Nevzlin was asked whether he would support former Russian PM Mikhail Kasyanov as the opposition candidate for president, to which he replied that Kasyanov had disappeared from Russian political life without having commented on the deal between state-owned gas monopoly Gazprom and Sibneft. This caused doubt over Kasyanov's political independence. The deal proved to be a collusion between the acting and the former Russian regime aimed at personal enrichment, he said.
Nevzlin said there had never been such a level of corruption in Russia before. He also spoke about the pressure on the media in Russia. He added that the Reporters Without Borders had put Russia at 138th position among 167 countries in the freedom of press rating. Nevzlin asked how Russia would chair the G8 next year with such figures.
The shareholders plan to continue explaining to the international community what is going on in Russian business including the deal with Sibneft, Nevzlin said.
Nevzlin, Brudno and the third Menatep owner Vladimir Dubov are currently in Israel. They have been placed on the Russian wanted list for various charges including fraud. - mosnews
Jury Revisits Deaths in Air Crash
The Moscow Times
A British jury is expected Wednesday to announce the official cause of death of Stephen Curtis, a lawyer close to ex-Yukos owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky who died this year in a helicopter crash.
The inquest -- being held close to the crash site in the English coastal resort of Bournemouth -- will stop hearing evidence Wednesday, after which the jury will give its decision, a representative of the coroner's office said Tuesday. The circumstances surrounding the crash, which killed both Curtis and pilot Max Radford, have been the center of speculation, with reports suggesting the crash may not have been an accident.
The multi-millionaire lawyer had warned his uncle that should he be dead within two weeks "it would be no accident," The Times of London reported from the inquest Tuesday. He had received death threats, been telephone-tapped, and trailed daily, the report said.
Sherrif Payne, the coroner handling the Bournemouth inquest, told the jury on Monday that the case had "all the ingredients for an espionage thriller," The Times reported. He was not available for comment on Tuesday.
Curtis had been returning to his castle home in Portland, England, on March 3 when his private helicopter crashed near Bournemouth airport.
In a report published in June, British investigators attributed the accident to pilot disorientation during bad weather. But the pilot's father warned the inquest that this theory ignored the lax security operation at the airport.
- the moscow times
"No one should doubt for a minute President Putin's motive in the dismemberment of the Yukos Oil Company and the state take-over of its major production unit. Energy is both very profitable and, given that major industrial companies depend on imports for their energy needs, inherently political. It is the Kremlin's aim to control Russia's energy sector to insure its dominant role in the world energy market. This will most certainly enhance President Putin's standing given that Europe and other countries become more dependent on Russia as a major supplier. The respected Count Lambsdorff of Germany warned last week that his country was on a perilous course by increasing its dependence on natural gas imports from Russia." - Leonid Nevzlin, a key shareholder in the embattled Yukos oil company
At only 36 years old, Roman Abramovich is listed by Forbes magazine as the second-richest man in Russia and the world's 49th wealthiest person, with a fortune of 1.8bn, while the Sunday Times says he is worth as much as 3.8bn. His meteoric rise is all the more remarkable given his difficult start in life.
His mother died when he was only 18 months old and his father died in a construction accident when he was four. Adopted by his father's brother, he lived for a time in Moscow and then with his maternal grandparents in the northern region of Komi.
Mr Abramovich attended the Industrial Institute in the city of Ukhta in Komi, before he was drafted into the Soviet army. His interest in oil began early as he concentrated his business activities on trading oil products out of Russia's largest refinery in Omsk, western Siberia. - The Guardian profile
Ask yourself what Abramovitch knows about the formation of OIL...to discover how he has been given access to a British football club
...his background is far from privileged. His mother died of blood poisoning when he was 18 months old and he was orphaned at four when his father was killed in a construction site accident.
He was sent to live with relatives in Ukhta, a bleak oil industry town just outside the Arctic Circle. He studied at the local industrial institute then transferred to Moscow's Gubkin Institute of Oil and Gas, where he sold retread car tyres as a sideline. With perestroika's arrival, he moved north again and set up a company to trade in oil products from the large refinery in Omsk, western Siberia.
[Note: no mention of Army service]
It prospered, attracting the attention of Boris Berezovsky (qv), then Russia's most influential tycoon. He wanted the clever kid from Omsk on his side and the pair bought the Sibneft oil business in 1995 for about 120m. When Berezovsky went into exile, Abramovich was left in charge of Sibneft. It is now worth about 8.8 billion and Abramovich's stake is worth 5.3 billion. Its value could have been even greater. Last year Sibneft agreed a merger with Yukos, Russia's biggest oil company, but the deal collapsed with the arrest on fraud charges of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Yukos's chairman.
Western oil companies are now queueing up to take over Sibneft. Shell, Total, Chevron and Texaco are all believed to have had talks with Abramovich's advisers about buying it. Analysts reckon that Sibneft's true value could go beyond 11 billion in such a takeover. Oil, though, is not his only interest. He has another 1 billion of holdings in aluminium, food production and pharmaceuticals groups. Sunday Times rich list
Ex- Army? with political aspirations?
"Mr Abramovich attended the Industrial Institute in the city of Ukhta
in Komi, before he was drafted into the Soviet army."
Recently, Mr Abramovich branched out into politics, following in the
footsteps of other oligarchs who became regional governors - men who
wield enormous power locally and nationally through the control of
vast chunks of natural resources.
In December, 2000, he won 92% of the vote to become governor of
Chukotka, a desolate province in northeastern Russia. Since then, he
has been pouring money into a frozen province which has a population
of just 73,000.
According to a Time magazine article last December, Mr Abramovich
spent $200m (120.2m) to $300m of his own money to build everything
from hotels and cinemas to supermarkets.
Such largesse has aroused suspicions from Mr Abramovich's critics,
who think he is using Chukotka as a springboard for higher political
office. But he told Time: "It's a new endeavour for me. I've never
run a territory. I've never talked publicly to people. I've got to
try it just to see whether I like it."
He even brought staff from Sibneft to run the province. Despite all
his efforts, the region was recently declared bankrupt and public
sector salaries went unpaid for months.
Mr Abramovich already had a British connection before his surprise
move for Chelsea. His multibillion dollar assets are controlled
through Millhouse Capital, a British-registered investment fund.
Also, this is not his first move into sport, as he already owns a
Russian hockey team. -
source = same profile as Guardian article above [strange?]
Like a bad James Bond movie
Tonga seizes ammunition from Abramovich's yacht
25/11/2005 - Customs officers in the South Pacific nation of Tonga today seized boxes of ammunition, but located no firearms, on the luxury yacht of Russian oil billionaire and Chelsea soccer club owner Roman Abramovich.
The 330-foot yacht, Le Grand Bleu, is moored off Tonga's Pangaimotu island with 37 crew members on board.
The "Matangi Tonga" website said customs officers carried out a rummage of the yacht, removing three boxes of different types of ammunition. It said officials, inquiring about the weapons for which the ammunition was intended, had been told they were "locked in approved lockers in San Francisco". Senior customs officer Felise Tonga Finau said the search was standard procedure and the ammunition would be returned when the yacht was ready to leave Tongan waters.
David Hunt, agent for the vessel in Tonga, said that there had been no difficulties with Tongan authorities and the yacht could stay in Tonga as long as an African grey parrot which lived on the vessel did not leave the boat. -
PUTINs Energy Cartel
Flashback: Kremlin man takes over at gas giant
Friday, 28 June, 2002: Russian gas giant Gazprom replaced its chairman with a Kremlin aide during its annual general meeting on Friday.
The move is a crucial part of the government's efforts to clean up the country's largest company.
Gazprom is the world's biggest gas producer and source of more than a quarter of Europe's supplies,
accounting for 8% of Russia's gross domestic product. But it is also widely seen as a lumbering, state-owned utility plagued with corruption.
The removal of Rem Vyakhirev as chairman had been largely expected. He had been at Gazprom since its inception in 1989 and had had good relations with president Boris Yeltsin.
But after Vladimir Putin became president things became rockier for Mr Vyakhirev. A year ago he was sacked as chief executive officer amid allegations of asset-stripping.
He was replaced by Alexei Miller, an ally of President Vladimir Putin, and given the less-influential post of chairman.
The board has replaced Mr Vyakhirev with Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of president Putin's administration and himself a former Gazprom chairman.
Gazprom - owners of NTV - The Gas & Media monopoly
The Blue stream is intended for deliveries of the Russian natural gas to Turkey going under the Black
Sea, avoiding third countries? issues. The project presumes an additional new way of gas delivery
from Russia to Turkey in contrast to gas transportation via the Ukraine, Moldova, Romania and
Bulgaria being under operation for years. Deliveries of gas by the Blue stream pipeline will
essentially raise reliability of gas supplies to Turkey to develop gas market and gas infrastructure
of this country. - Gazprom
Gazprom completes Sibneft deal
MOSCOW. Oct 21 (Interfax) - Gazprom Finance BV, a wholly owned Gazprom subsidiary registered in the Netherlands, has become the owner of 72.66% of Sibneft, the oil company said in an official statement.
The corresponding note in the Sibneft shareholders' register was made on October 20.
Gazprom announced the signing of binding documents on September 28 for the gas concern to acquire 72.663% of shares in Sibneft for $13.091 billion. Including the 3.016% acquired by Gazprombank earlier, Gazprom's stake in the company will reach 75.679%. rd - interfax
Interests: Energy: Russia, Turkey, Isreal, Kurds, Chechnya, Iraq, Iran
- the region is a major hot spot....
Getting a feeling of Deja Vu?
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and his Iranian counterpart
Mohammad Khatami exchange signed documents during their
meeting in the Moscow Kremlin
U.S. warns Russia, Iran over arms sales
March 13, 2001
The State Department warned Tuesday of "serious ramifications" if Russia sold sensitive military
technology and advanced conventional weapons to Iran.
Moscow had refrained from selling such weapons technology under a secret agreement negotiated in 1995
during the Clinton and Yeltsin administrations. But last year Russian President Vladimir Putin said
he planned to stop honoring the agreement.
Russia's leaders defended plans to increase trade with Iran, accusing critics of misjudging attempts
to reinforce stability in the region. The Kremlin says it is pursuing closer ties for economic and
political reasons. - More from CNN
Russia's arms for Iran
Iran: Bear Hugs
Russia / Isreal signs 'Terror deal'|
In a telephone conversation between Sharon and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday the two leaders
spoke of the need to exhange more intelligence information to battle the threat posed by extremist groups
after the Beslan tragedy. -
Just days after the siege ended in a bloodbath, Israel and Russia signed a memorandum pledging to encourage
"the development of broad bilateral, regional and multilateral co-operation" in fighting international
terrorism, officials said in Jerusalem, where Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived late Sunday.
"The terrorism that struck in Russia is exactly the same kind of terrorism that strikes us," said Israeli
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who proposed expanded intelligence co-ordination in a telephone call to Mr.
Putin the night before.
Although Mr. Lavrov was careful not to draw any direct parallel between Russia's conflict in Chechnya
and nearly four years of bloodshed between Israel and Palestinians, he declared terrorism a "universal
evil . . . that has no affiliation with any religion or nationality."
Faced with hostility at home, Moscow attempted to rally support abroad. A German official said Mr. Putin
intends to follow through with a visit to Hamburg later this week, and Russian officials were preparing
for a specially convened meeting with members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. -
Blair wades in after Beslan
We share Russias grief in this dark hour for their country and particularly with the people of Beslan
for the terrible atrocity that they have suffered. We mourn with them and we express our total and
The British people are with the people of Beslan, with the people of Russia at this moment.
And as I said to President Putin yesterday, whatever the terrorists do and today we live in a world I am
afraid where this form of terrorism without limits, this form of extraordinary extremism can affect any
country in the world we are absolutely united in our determination to defeat that terrorism, whether
in Russia or anywhere else in the world. - source
"To kill and maim innocent people is I'm afraid a feature of terrorism. To kill and maim innocent children
in this way is something I think that has taken terrorism to a different, even more depraved level,"
Blair told a news conference.
"We have got to ensure, every single one of us in different countries around the world -- all of us
face this new, virulent, extreme form of terrorism -- that we stand in complete solidarity with Russia
and the Russian people in saying these people will not prevail," he added. -
Why Would Blair need to boost the UK position with Russia?
"...gas is the UK's main source of electricity generation, with 39% of the market, compared to a share of less than 1% in 1990, according to official industry figures.
The UK is now the world's third largest consumer of natural gas, after the US and Russia.
Which brings us to the current reality. Britain is now running out of its own supplies of natural gas.
The North Sea reserves are drying up (some estimate by 2011), meaning we are going to have to start importing more and more of the stuff.
And while plans are in hand to increase import facilities - such as the creation of additional pipelines, and new port facilities to import gas in liquid form - some key strategic uncertainties remain, such as exactly which countries we can get the gas from.
The main exporters of natural gas to the EU are Norway, Russia and Algeria." -
Gazprom sees profits rise tenfold
Mr Putin was guest of honour
at a City banquet
BP signs historic Russian deal
26 June, 2003 -
BP has signed a landmark 4bn deal with Russian oil firm TNK.
The agreement is the biggest foreign investment in Russia to date and strengthens trade ties between the two countries.
The signing, at a special energy conference in London, was witnessed by Prime Minister Tony Blair and visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin.
For its 50% stake in TNK, BP is paying a total of 4.17bn ($6.75bn) in cash and shares over the next four years.
TNK-BP Signs a Framework $1 Billion Facility Agreement with Bank Consortium
TNK-BP is Russias third largest oil company and among the worlds top 10 integrated oil companies in
terms of crude oil production. The companys strategy emphasizes the importance of transparency,
information disclosure and good corporate governance in building a world-class Russian company.
The Gwangyang power project will be the first privately owned power generation facility to be developed for
Koreas liberalised electricity generation industry. -
Keywords being 'Liberalised' & 'Privately owned'
Who privately owns it? -
A global CARTEL... see Geo-political asset rape
Rosneft buys into TNK-BP's East Siberia field
MOSCOW, Oct 20 (Reuters) - Russian state oil firm Rosneft said on Thursday it had agreed to buy a 25.9 percent stake in the East Siberian Verkhnechonsk oilfield, which is majority owned by TNK-BP, a joint venture of British oil major BP . Rosneft did not say how much it has agreed to pay for the stake, which is held by Russian industrial conglomerate Interros, owned by metals-to-banking tycoon Vladimir Potanin.
Verkhnechonsk is the largest field so far discovered in East Siberia and has recoverable reserves estimated at 201.9 million tonnes of oil (1.48 billion barrels) and 3.4 million tonnes of gas condensate, as well as 129.2 billion cubic metres of gas.
"We believe the sale will not affect the plans for development of Verkhnechonsk," a TNK-BP spokeswoman said in response to the announcement. "Those plans are clearly aligned with plans to develop untapped resources in East Siberia."
East Siberia is far from export markets and has been so far little exploited compared to Russia's oil heartland of West Siberia, but Russian plans for a major new oil pipeline to East Asia could make the remote field economically viable.
TNK-BP plans to build a 375 mile (600 km) pipeline from the field to connect it to Russia's railway network and, later, to the major pipeline, enabling it to export to China and Japan.
TNK-BP said in August that it plans to invest $270 million in the field and pipeline link. But a company spokesman told Interfax last month that the total cost of bringing the field on stream could top $6 billion.
TNK-BP owns 63 percent of Verkhnechonsk, while the government of the Siberian region of Irkutsk holds 11 percent. - asia.news.yahoo
TNK-BP expects China gas supply hurdles to be solved by yearend - report
BEIJING (AFX) 2005-10-21 - Russian-British joint venture TNK-BP said it hopes to resolve all outstanding issues hindering a project to supply up to one third of China's gas imports by the end of the year, the Standard reported.
The Hong Kong-based newspaper cited Neil Beveridge, TNK-BP's director of gas marketing for the Asia-Pacifi region, as saying the volume of gas to be piped from Russia's Kovykta field has been agreed, leaving other issues including price still to be worked out.
Pricing will probably be linked to oil and other commodities and would have to be competitive, Beveridge said.
Gas pricing has been a sticking point since coal, which is abundant in China, is a major competitor to natural gas.
The proposed project, worth 18 bln usd, includes a 600-kilometer pipeline and aims to export 30 bln cubic meters of gas annually to China after 2010. Other outstanding issues include the timing of gas delivery and the role of state-owned Gazprom in the Kovykta project, Beveridge said.
He said these might be cleared up by the end of the year, when Russia is expected to decide how it will develop East Siberia and Far East gas reserves and the proportion it plans to export.
The Chinese market will require 70 bln cubic meters of gas imports by 2020, which will have to be drawn from several sources, Beveridge said. - iii.co.uk
Russia halts TNK-BP projects over secrets - paper
Mon Oct 24, 2005 MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's FSB security service, successor to the Soviet-era KGB, has suspended some TNK-BP operations for fear that foreigners would discover state secrets, Vedomosti business daily reported on Monday. The newspaper quoted Deputy Economy Minister Andrei Sharonov as saying some of the oil company's projects in Western Siberia had been suspended as TNK-BP had violated the law on state secrets which prohibits foreigners seeing large-scale maps of Russia. TNK-BP is half-owned by BP.
"The FSB came and said that a licence permitting work with state secrets was suspended," the paper quoted a TNK-BP official as saying.
TNK-BP spokesman Ivan Gogolyev told Ekho Moskvy radio that the FSB move would complicate the company's work but not stop it. He said the licences in question had been suspended more than a year ago.
"In light of the fact that our company is a joint venture, there was an agreement that BP representatives would be part of the operational management, and they were appointed as general directors of some units," he said. "Later it became clear that foreigners couldn't be granted a licence to work with state secrets. We appealed to the government to help sort out the problem but it's clearly not something that gets resolved quickly."
It is not the first time that TNK-BP's foreign ownership has threatened to interfere with its operations.
Russia is drafting a new law on subsoil use that would bar the firm from bidding for certain strategic energy deposits, which will be reserved for Russian companies.
A source familiar with the situation in TNK-BP told Vedomosti that the company had solved the secrets problem locally.
"In some places we have moved foreign directors (of TNK-BP subsidiaries), and in some companies we have tried to outsource all work involving secret information to Russian companies," he said.
The source said Salym Petroleum Development, a Russian joint venture of Shell and Sibir Energy, had also resorted to outsourcing map work. Vedomosti quoted an Economy Ministry official as saying that ExxonMobil had also complained about problems with the access to geodesic information. Vedomosti quoted Sharonov as saying that his ministry suggested solving the problem by appointing a special deputy head responsible for secret information, while the FSB suggested outsourcing such work to local firms.
"Both approaches are flawed," Vedomosti quoted an Economy Ministry official as saying. "In the first case there is no guarantee that a foreigner will not get access to state secrets, in the second we are creating a burden for the company." - reuters.co.uk
| Russia to export oil to China via China-Kazakhstan pipeline
Russia plans to export petroleum to China through the Atasu-Ala-Shankou section of the oil pipeline from Kazakhstan and China, said Semyon Vainshtok, president of Russia's Transneft on Nov. 17.
Vainshtok said Russia will first transport oil to Kazakhstan via the Omsk (Russia)-Pavlodar (Kazakhstan) pipeline and then to China.
Rosneft has filed application to Transneft on the proposed oil export increase.
Russia's Lukoil Company also expressed wish to export oil to China through the Atasu-Ala-Shankou pipeline.
Kazakh Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Vladimir Shkolnik pointed out that the Atasu-Ala-Shankou section will be completed on Dec. 16 this year. Its designed capacity is 20 million tons and that of the first phase is 10 million tons.
He said, the pipeline will be available to oil companies of both Kazakhstan and Russia which have intention to export oil to China.
Russia's oil export to China is now undertaken by Russian Railways.
Statistics from the company show in the first ten months this year, Russia exported 6.4 million tons of petroleum to China through railway, up 30.7 percent year-on-year.
Insiders say China-Kazakhstan oil pipeline will help Russia achieve its 15-million-ton goal of oil export to China next year. -
Putin Backs Turkey as Energy Hub
By Christian Lowe and Ercan Ersoy Reuters SAMSUN, Turkey -- The leaders of Russia, Turkey and Italy pledged on Thursday to boost oil and gas cooperation and bring Europe greater energy security after inaugurating a natural gas pipeline under the Black Sea.
The inauguration of the Blue Stream line also capped a big improvement in economic ties between Russia and NATO member Turkey as they set aside historic rivalries in favor of trade.
President Vladimir Putin raised the possibility of a second pipeline carrying Russian natural gas and oil to Turkey, while Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said his country aimed to become a key energy hub for Europe and the Middle East.
"The launch of the Blue Stream pipeline [linking Russia and Turkey] is ... a step toward strengthening our continent's energy security and diversifying energy supplies to consumers," Putin said at the ceremony in Turkey's Black Sea port of Samsun.
Italy's Eni and Russia's Gazprom built the pipeline.
"There is an opportunity to build another oil or gas pipeline under the Black Sea," Putin said.
Elucidating Putin's remarks, a senior Turkish energy official said Russia planned to build an oil pipeline along the route of Blue Stream. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Russia also hoped to increase the capacity of Blue Stream itself, including, if necessary, a second gas pipeline.
Putin said Russian companies were ready for further cooperation in the Turkish oil and gas market, not only increasing exports but also taking part in building infrastructure and exploration and extraction of oil including taking equity.
"Blue Stream gives us an opportunity for shipping gas to other third countries ... There is the opportunity for building new oil and gas transport systems delivering to southern Italy, to the south of Europe as a whole and to Israel," Putin said. "This year Blue Stream will transport 3.7 billion cubic metres of gas. If Blue Stream reaches its planned capacity, then overall Russian gas exports to Turkey will be 30 billion cubic meters a year," he said.
Gazprom chairman Alexei Miller told reporters his company was thinking of building a liquefied natural gas plant in Turkey with an annual capacity of 5 million tons, either in Izmir on the Aegean Sea or in Ceyhan. "It is possible to increase the Russian gas going to Israel and to deliver Russian gas to be turned into LNG in Turkey and then to export that LNG to third countries," he said.
Erdogan tried to convince Putin and Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of the value of a pipeline carrying Russian crude from Samsun to Turkey's Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. This would help relieve congestion in Turkey's Bosporus.
"The line will provide safe transportation of oil to the Mediterranean and will increase security in [the Bosphorus] by reducing tanker traffic," Erdogan said.
A Turkish official said the Russians seemed favorable to the pipeline, despite earlier fears they were hostile. Eni chief executive Paolo Scaroni also expressed interest. For Russia and other Black Sea states, the Bosporus provides the only outlet to world markets for oil and products exports.
- moscow times.
The Kremlin Oil and Gas Corporation
16.09.2004 - Gazeta.Ru
What the Kremlin wants to establish is a rather peculiar system of power where the nation's key economic assets are run on behalf of the state by a group of close associates. Those assets are a guarantee that those people retain political power.
This week the government unveiled plans to swap its wholly owned oil company Rosneft for shares in Gazprom and to set up a super oil and gas corporation. The move is aimed, according to official reports, at reinstating the government's control over the sector - with the government securing over 50 per cent in the gas giant - and at the liberalization of Gazprom shares market.
However, in truth, the words 'government' and 'liberalism' appear in those reports completely by chance, or rather - solely for propaganda purposes.
The creation of the super corporation Gazpromneft is yet another all-important brick in the construction of Putin's Russia, another step towards the implementation of the project launched by the chekists -- powerful special services people dominating the Kremlin, who seek to transform Russia into an authoritarian capitalist regime.
And while the presidential envoy to the Northern Caucasus, Dmitry Kozak, vested with regal powers, is to become a symbol of Putin's political anti-crisis management, Gazpromneft Co. is to visually embody Putin's economic course. Politically Russia is turning into a unitary empire; economically - into a government corporation.
The acquisition of Rosneft by Gazprom signifies the completion of a consolidation of economic assets in the hands of the so-called St. Petersburg clan of siloviki, high-placed law enforcement officials, who secured leading roles in the Kremlin in the wake of Putin's victory in the 2000 presidential poll.
The Gazprom-Rosneft merger creates a strong link between pro-Kremlin entrepreneurs and key figures in the presidential administration. "Businessman" Aleksei Miller holds the post of Gazprom's CEO; chief of the presidential administration Dmitry Medvedev is Gazprom's board chairman; "businessman" Sergei Bogdanchikov, until recently, Rosneft CEO, is the head of Gazpromneft; special services man and presidential aide Igor Sechin is the chairman of the board of directors with Gazpromneft.
It would not be correct to say that the creation of a super corporation amounts to a strengthening of the government's economic position. Gazprom is not "being placed under the control of the state" in the ordinary sense. For instance, everyone knows perfectly well that the government is formally in charge of running Gazrpom, but in reality has no control over it.
The gas monopoly is controlled by a group of Putin's closest associates, not by government institutions. What we are witnessing is the creation of a rather peculiar system of power whereby the nation's key economic assets are managed by a clan of especially trusted and close allies, with those assets being a guarantee that those people will retain political power.
This summer's "banking crisis of trust", which inflicted its heaviest damages on Alfa-bank, the country's only major bank not controlled by the Kremlin, enabled the Kremlin grouping to consolidate its financial assets. So far Vneshtorgbank is playing the role of the main state agent here. However, a management reshuffle in Sberbank, Russia's monopoly savings bank, is also quite likely.
The decisive consolidation phase of the St. Peterburgers' political assets began with the Kremlin's victory in the December 2003 elections when for the first time it secured a constitutional majority for its 'party of power'. The process looks like ending with the stripping of the last vestiges of the regional leaders' influence by scrapping their election by popular vote, as proclaimed by the president.
For the time being the St. Petersburgers are denying reports that the newly established oil and gas giant will be reinforced with assets expropriated from Yukos. However, this seems almost inevitable.
At any rate, the Rosneft-Gazprom merger is a first step towards the state-owned company's expansion in the oil sector. The other day the president said that Rosneft could not afford to buy Yukos' assets. Undoubtedly, by the time he said that he had already been informed of the merger plans. With Gazprom as an ally Rosneft will turn into a global player in the oil sector, and, of course, will try to take advantage of that.
As for the plans to liberalize the Gazprom share market, they by no means contradict the Kremlin's effort to build state capitalism. Against the background of the Yukos affair, political instability and Putin's unwillingness to reform the legal system, foreign investors are invited to buy into a highly liquid and reliable state-owned asset.
Foreign investors are invited to credit Putin's group that has more than once proved over the past year that it is the only gang in this country that can ensure protection for investments on Russian territory. - mosnews
What do the Russians know?
Peak oil is a sham by the energy cartel monopoly
The essence of the modern Russian-Ukrainian theory of deep, abiotic petroleum origins.
The modern Russian-Ukrainian theory of deep, abiotic petroleum origins is an extensive body of scientific knowledge which covers the subjects of the chemical genesis of the hydrocarbon molecules which comprise natural petroleum, the physical processes which occasion their terrestrial concentration, the dynamical processes of the movement of that material into geological reservoirs of petroleum, and the location and economic production of petroleum. The modern Russian-Ukrainian theory of deep, abiotic petroleum origins recognizes that petroleum is a primordial material of deep origin which has been erupted into the crust of the Earth.
In short, and bluntly, petroleum is not a "fossil fuel" and has no intrinsic connection with dead dinosaurs (or any other biological detritus) "in the sediments" (or anywhere else).
The modern Russian-Ukrainian theory of petroleum is based upon rigorous scientific reasoning, consistent with the laws of physics and chemistry, as well as upon extensive geological observation, and rests squarely in the mainstream of modern physics and chemistry, from which it draws its provenance. Much of the modern Russian theory of deep, abiotic petroleum genesis developed from the sciences of chemistry and thermodynamics, and accordingly the modern theory has steadfastly held as a central tenet that the generation of hydrocarbons must conform to the general laws of chemical thermodynamics, - as must likewise all matter. In such respect, modern Russian-Ukrainian petroleum science contrasts strongly to what are too often passed off as "theories" in the field of geology in Britain and the U.S.A. - asresources.net
Strange Connections - The 2 Abramoviches
Roman Abramovich also studied here: Gubkin Russian State University of Oil and Gas|
The university was originally founded on April 17, 1930 on the basis of the Faculty of Oil of the Moscow Mining Academy, the institution began with 1135 students and consisted of four faculties - Geology and Oil Prospecting, Mining Engineering, Oil Processing and Economics. In 1966, the university began the task of fulfilling the function of a basic higher educational institution. In 1987, it established the Teaching Methods Research Association in oil and gas specialities. It has since become a research center of oil and gas higher education of the Russian Federation with nine faculties.
Gubkin's research program aligns itself to their specialists' training orientation and maintains a branch research laboratory. It also has international connections with partners in the USA, Germany, France, Great Britain, China and others. - source
geophysical methods of search and prospecting
oil and gas geology?
The electromagnetic (EM) theory underlying all of the void and geologic anomaly detection methods is based upon the propagation of EM wave energy from a transmitting source of EM waves to a companion receiver (1-5). In the case of the magnetotelluric surface probing methods, the transmitting sources are naturally occurring, such as lightning, earth-ionosphere resonances, and sun spots (6). The traveling EM waves are composed of transverse electric and magnetic field components:
The traveling field components continually exchange energy between the electric and magnetic fields along the transmission path. The distance traveled for the energy to be completely transferred to the other field component and back again is a wavelength - source
The HAARP Project, Global resources market control
Title: Russian parliament concerned about US plans to develop new weapon
Document Number: FBIS-SOV-2002-0808
Document Date: 08 Aug 2002
Division: Russia, North America
Subdivision: Russia, United States
Sourceline: CEP20020808000087 Moscow Interfax in English 1009 GMT 8 Aug 02
Citysource: Moscow Interfax
[FBIS Transcribed Text] MOSCOW. Aug 8 (Interfax) - The Russian State
Duma has expressed concern about the United States' program to develop a
qualitatively new type of weapon.
"Under the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP), the
U.S. is creating new integral geophysical weapons that may influence the
near-Earth medium with high-frequency radio waves," the State Duma said
in an appeal circulated on Thursday.
"The significance of this qualitative leap could be compared to the
transition from cold steel to fire arms, or from conventional weapons to
nuclear weapons. This new type of weapons differs from previous types in
that the near-Earth medium becomes at once an object of direct influence
and its component.
These conclusions were made by the commission of the State Duma's
international affairs and defense committees, the statement reads.
The committees reported that the U.S. is planning to test three
facilities of this kind. One of them is located on the military testing
ground in Alaska and its full-scale tests are to begin in early 2003. The
second one is in Greenland and the third one in Norway.
"When these facilities are launched into space from Norway, Alsaka and
Greenland, a closed contour will be created with a truly fantastic
integral potential for influencing the near-Earth medium," the State Duma
The U.S. plans to carry out large-scale scientific experiments, under
the HAARP program, and not controlled by the global community, will
create weapons capable of breaking radio communication lines and
equipment installed on spaceships and rockets, provoke serious accidents
in electricity networks and in oil and gas pipelines and have a negative
impact on the mental health of people populating entire regions, the
They demanded that an international ban be put on such large-scale
The appeal, signed by 90 deputies, has been sent to President Vladimir
Putin, to the United Nations and other international organizations, to
the parliaments and leaders of the UN member countries, to the scientific
public and to mass media outlets.
Among those who signed the appeal are Tatyana Astrakhankina, Nikolai
Kharitonov, Yegor Ligachev, Sergei Reshulsky, Vitaly Sevastyanov, Viktor
Cherepkov, Valentin Zorkaltsev and Alexei Mitrofanov.
[Description of Source: Moscow Interfax in English -- non-government
information agency known for its aggressive reporting, extensive economic
coverage, and good coverage of Russia's regions] -
Federation of American scientists
Electromagnetic Scalar technology -
'sky-wave' (ionospheric propagation)
Area Surveillance Technology Program
Program Leader: Professor Yuri Abramovich
The Area Surveillance Technology Program is focused on over-the-horizon radars (OTHR's). The ability of such radars to provide wide area surveillance makes this technology especially suitable for Australia and its development has driven much of CSSIPs research with Telstra Applied Technologies and DSTO.
Both sky and surface-wave OTHRs provide the potential for increased surveillance capabilities that have significant defence and commercial application. Relatively low cost surface wave radar can provide reliable coverage of coastal regions out to ranges of several hundred kilometres with the potential to monitor Australias exclusive economic zone and detect intruders. The development of both types of radars requires an understanding of the fundamental propagation and noise characteristics of the radars and the use of this information in the design of the radar antennas, receivers and signal processing software. CSSIPs research will optimise the performance of such radars by designing, building and experimentally measuring their performance under a range of operating parameters. It is expected that this work will lead to a major new class of radars for coastal surveillance.
A high frequency surface-wave radar receiving array and processing system has been built, deployed and tested by CSSIP on experimental trials in Northern Australia under contract to Telstra Applied Technologies. The trials of adaptive multi channel calibration and novel antenna architectures for reliable surface wave OTHR target detection have been completed and the signatures of sky-wave (ionospherically propagated) signals measured. The best antenna array candidates have been selected for future experimental work.
Are the State/corporate chimera in the form of the Elite
[including Carlyle Group/Russian oligarchs/Mafia/intelligence operations]
involved in the synarchist utilisation of a global surveillance grid
instrumental in the covert use of trafficking?
Is this an organised crimeloop?
Does fake terror seek to justify heightened Border control/security technology
which is then used for manipulation for the crime syndicates own ends?
Have the Bad Guys got the keys to the world?
Cause: "terror" = Effect: Pre-emptive strike capability
Clinton - Balkans - Caucases - Putin - The Russian Mafia - KLA - Al Queda -
BUSH - CIA - drugs and Nuclear arms trafficking - Baku-Ceyhan OIL Pipeline
Is there a synarchist
'I'll scratch your back, if you scratch mine'
happening between cosmetic democracies known as nation states
remember: these governments are in power because of
seemingly fraudulent elections...
and the destruction of democratic processes
It's 'The Corporation' &
a Pre-emptive Global take-over
Putin Goes BUSH!:
Russia is prepared to launch pre-emptive strikes on bases used for training militants anywhere in the world, a senior general said Wednesday, after a joint Russia-NATO meeting in Brussels denounced the latest spate of attacks on Russian soil that killed well over 400 people.
As for launching pre-emptive strikes on terrorist bases, we will carry out all measures to liquidate terrorist bases in any region of the world, General Yuri Baluevsky was quoted by the Russian Information Agency Novosti as saying.
However, this does not mean that we will launch nuclear strikes.
Todays terrorism has changed considerably and has transformed from lone terrorists to terrorist groups, Novosti quoted him as saying.
He stressed that during his talks with NATO joint armed forces chief commander James Jones, the two sides discussed the exchange of information on terrorist structures and cells.
The Reuters news agency quoted the spokesman for Chechnyas main separatist leader as saying that the statement could mean that Russia will try to assassinate Chechens in the West.
It is a threat toward Europe, Akhmed Zakayev, envoy of Chehen leader Aslan Maskhadov, told Reuters. I do not exclude that what they did in Qatar they could try to do in any European country.
Qatar has convicted two Russian agents of the car bomb killing of a former Chechen rebel leader, Zelimkhan Yanderbiyev, in February.
Russia moves closer to foreign NGO ban
By Neil Buckley in Moscow - November 23 2005
Russia moved closer to an effective ban on many foreign non-governmental organisations as its parliament on Wednesday considered a bill that human rights groups have criticised as another step towards a "totally closed society".
The proposed restrictions on NGOs have provoked so much concern internationally that they were raised last Friday by George W. Bush, US president, in a meeting with Vladimir Putin, his Russian counterpart. Legal experts say the measures could contravene international human rights treaties.
Rights groups say the bill would introduce controls on NGOs, both foreign and domestic, that are even tougher than in Russia's authoritarian neighbour, Belarus.
It follows a series of allegations by senior Russian officials that foreign-funded groups helped foment pro-democracy revolutions in neighbouring Georgia and Ukraine – which marked the first anniversary of its "orange" revolution this week.
Nikolai Patrushev, head of the FSB security service, told Russia's parliament in May that NGOs were often a front for foreign intelligence. Mr Putin said in July Russia would not tolerate foreign funding of "political activities" by NGOs.
If passed into law unchanged, the bill would force all NGOs to register with a state commission within a year. The commission would have broad powers to demand documents on groups' finances and activities to ensure compliance with their stated goals and Russia's constitution.
NGOs fear that would give the authorities broad scope to close down any groups whose activities they disliked.
Foreign NGOs would no longer be able to operate through branch offices, but would have to register as a specific form of Russian legal entity, imposing requirements such as the need for a Russian membership that many would struggle to meet.
The cross-party group of MPs that introduced the bill says it aims partly at curbing foreign terrorist organisations, and preventing NGOs from being used to launder criminal finances.
But one MP who drafted the bill, the nationalist Alexei Ostrovsky, said pro-democracy groups "funded by the CIA" had caused unrest in Georgia and Ukraine. "We want to defend our citizens from the chaos which our country can be dragged into by these foreign NGOs," he said.
Alexander Petrov of the Moscow office of New York-based Human Rights Watch said NGOs were the "last sector of civil society which is still not fully controlled by the authorities".
The bill was approved 370-18 in its first reading in Russia's lower house yesterday, but must go through more readings and be signed by the president before coming into law. - FT Com
Putin resists foreign bank moves
Vladimir Putin has insisted foreign banks should not be allowed to open their own branches in Russia despite strong opposition from the US. The Russian president said foreign bank branches should be "forbidden", partly because of fears over money laundering and also the need to fight terrorism. Russia's stance is at odds with global trade rules at a time when it is trying to join the World Trade Organization. The US has insisted Russia change its position if it wants to join the WTO.
Foreign banks are currently only allowed to operate in Russia through subsidiaries, which drives up their costs. Mr Putin said the government's position on the issue had not changed despite calls for it to back down.
"The activity of branches of foreign banks in the Russian Federation should be limited," he told an audience of bankers in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk. "In essence it should be forbidden."
Controlling the spread of foreign-owned bank branches was necessary to ensure national security, Mr Putin suggested.
"This is connected not only with competition, including the impossibility to trace the movement of money and capital in the modern world. "This is connected among other things with the need to fight terrorism and with the need to fight money laundering."
Washington has sought to exert pressure on Russia over the issue, using its desire to join the WTO as leverage. The WTO requires its members to fully open their banking systems to foreign competition.
The Russian authorities argue they have already liberalised the banking sector, increasing firms' access to foreign capital.
Story from BBC NEWS
Military sale to Thailand means 'Russia controls region'
The Russian media reported this morning that the Thai government has agreed to a secret $500 million deal to buy Russian fighter jets and helicopters for the Royal Thai Air Force.
The reports made no mention of the Thai government's claim at home that this is to be a barter deal. Premier Thaksin Shinawatra also has never mentioned helicopters before, although he confirmed there might be a deal to obtain the 12 Sukhol-30 fighter jets.
"This is good news for Russia, we haven't sold a single cartridge to Thailand," enthused Konstantin Makiyenko, deputy head of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies to the Moscow Times today.
"It also means that Russia has taken over the region - we have fighter jets in China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and now Thailand."
The Moscow media report said the deal is preliminary and was signed last week in Kuala Lumpur when President Vladimir Putin and Mr Thaksin were both at the East Asia Summit in Kuala Lumpur.
It said Russia has signed a preliminary agreement to sell $500 million worth of military aircraft to Thailand, and added it was "the first such deal with the traditional US arms client."
"We signed a memorandum for 12 Sukhoi-30MKMs during President Vladimir Putin's visit [last week] to Malaysia," a senior official at Irkut, the privately controlled maker of the Sukhoi fighter, was quoted as saying.
Thailand originally agreed to buy the jets last year but put off the deal after a tsunami that killed hundreds of thousands of people hit the region last December, said the Moscow reports.
The Irkut executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of negotiations, said the memorandum of understanding also included delivery of helicopters to Thailand, according to Moscow reports.
"We have gone half the distance and expect to sign the contract in the first half of next year," said Alexei Fyodorov, Irkut board chairman.
Makiyenko estimated that the deal would bring Russia at least $500 million. Rosoboronexport, the state arms sales agency, was not available for comment to the Russian media. - bangkokpost
Putin's Economic Adviser Abruptly Resigns
By HENRY MEYER, Associated Press Writer [27 12 2005]
An outspoken economic adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Tuesday that he was resigning, saying he could no longer work in a government that had done away with political freedoms. The government later said Putin signed a decree dismissing him.
Andrei Illarionov, the lone dissenter in a Kremlin dominated by Putin's fellow KGB veterans, was stripped of his duties as envoy to the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations earlier this year. However, he had remained Putin's economic adviser. Illarionov made the move after harshly criticizing the Kremlin's course last week, when he said that political freedom in Russia has steadily declined and that government-controlled corporations have stifled competition and ignored public interests.
"It is one thing to work in a partly free country, which Russia was six years ago. It is quite another when the country has ceased to be politically free," he said Tuesday, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.
Illarionov, who has also criticized what he says is a return to inefficient state control of the economy, complained that he was no longer able to speak his mind.
"I considered it important to remain here at this post as long as I had the possibility to do something, including speaking out," he said, according to ITAR-Tass. "Until recently, no one put any restrictions on me expressing my point of view. Now the situation has changed."
Illarionov, 44, a liberal economist, had worked in the Russian government in the 1990s and became Putin's adviser in 2000. Several hours after Illarionov spoke, Putin's press service said the president signed a decree relieving the adviser of his duties. Viktor Chernomyrdin, a longtime Russian prime minister who is now ambassador to Ukraine, said Illarionov's criticism of the government was unfounded.
"There was so much malice in him, he was being overly negative," Chernomyrdin said, according to the Interfax news agency. "It was a mistake to keep him in the Kremlin for so long."
But Yevgeny Ikhlov, who leads the group For Human Rights, described Illarionov as "the last liberal in the government" who dared to expose the authorities' crackdown on political freedoms. Illarionov increasingly fell out of favor after he became a vocal critic of moves to restore state control over the strategic energy sector, in particular lambasting the effective nationalization of the Yukos oil empire of jailed tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky in 2004 as the "swindle of the year." Illarionov said he had a number of reasons for his decision to resign but said that his main concern was the development of an increasingly state-controlled economy, with major public companies run by self-interested bureaucrats.
"Six years ago when I came to this post I dedicated my work to increasing economic freedoms in Russia. Six years on, the situation has changed radically," he said. "This is a state model with the participation of state corporations, which although they are public in name and status, are managed above all for their own personal interests," said Illarionov.
Russia's biggest carmaker Avtovaz on Thursday elected a new board with top managers representing the state, cementing control of a key company after parallel moves to increase the state's hold on the energy sector. Under Putin, Russia has moved to snap up chunks of the strategically important oil sector and the state now controls around 30 percent of the national oil industry. Last December the biggest oil fields of Yukos - once Russia's No.1 producer - were transferred to the state to reclaim billions in disputed tax bills. This year, the giant gas monopoly Gazprom bought the privately held OAO Sibneft oil company.
Illarionov said last week that after state-owned Rosneft took over OAO Yukos' main subsidiary, Yuganskneftegaz, the unit's revenues dropped and costs soared.
The announcement of his resignation came as the Russian parliament gave final approval to legislation that will impose strict curbs on human rights and other nonprofit groups. Critics say it is another step by Putin to tighten control of society after moves to put the state in charge of all national broadcasters, impose a Kremlin-loyal parliament and end the direct election of governors in Russia's sprawling regions in favor of officials effectively appointed from Moscow.
Democracy and Iran tension to test Russia's G8 lead
Tue Dec 27, 2005 By Richard Balmforth MOSCOW (Reuters) - Moscow's tensions with the West over Iran's nuclear program and its patchy record on democracy will test Russia's year at the helm of the G8 club of rich nations starting on Sunday.
And, with the security of world energy supplies at the top of Russia's G8 agenda, Putin may have to do some fancy footwork if he is to stop a row over the price of gas supplies to Ukraine rebounding on its chairmanship from day one.
"The Russian presidency of the 'Eight' will be associated not with roses but with a large quantity of healthy thorns," the daily Moskovsky Komsomolets predicted.
But Russia will still do its best to boost its international standing during its G8 presidency.
For the former KGB spy-turned-president, easing into the driving seat of the elite Group of Eight on January 1 will be a crowning moment after years of Russia being treated as a wild card by the United States and other G8 partners.
In July, Putin will play the statesman when he hosts the key summit in his hometown of St. Petersburg with U.S. President George W. Bush and the leaders of Japan, Britain, France, Italy, Germany and Canada as his guests.
Analysts say his action to soften proposed curbs on human rights bodies and charities in Russia signals Putin's aim of making Russia's time in office smooth and non-controversial.
So, Russia's G8 agenda comprises only non-contentious themes -- energy policy, fighting disease and the war on terror. Held at arms-length by the G7 because of doubts about its democratic course and its commitment to the free-market, Russia has for some years been in the club but not fully a part of it.
"It will be very important for Mr Putin to show that Russia is not only a junior member of this very influential club, but a member who can chair the whole club for a while," said Nikolai Petrov of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "It is very important from a symbolic point of view."
While still not in the top-10 of the world's largest economies, Russia joined the group in 1998, but does not participate in meetings of G7 finance ministers. The G8 does not have a formal structure and its agenda is set by the presidency.
Russia has rarely been in better economic shape. It has seen seven straight years of growth on record world oil prices and is now in the grip of a consumer boom. Its foreign exchange coffers more than cover its $91 billion government debt. As it establishes itself as a major gas and oil-producing power, part of Russia's G8 message will be that, though traditional world energy sources are in unstable parts of the Middle East, it remains an exporter of cast-iron reliability.
But that boast could evaporate quickly if its gas row with neighboring Ukraine is not settled soon, observers say.
Ukraine has rejected the nearly five-fold hike in the price of natural gas demanded by Russia's Gazprom monopoly for 2006, saying it needs a transitional period to adjust its economy. Without a compromise, Gazprom will stop supplies to its former ex-Soviet ally on January 1, the day Russia takes over the G8 presidency. That in turn could hit Western Europe customers -- with the finger of blame being pointed at Russia.
"If Western Europe shivers in the cold for even just two days, it will be a catastrophe for us," Moskovsky Komsomolets said. "Russia will acquire the reputation of an unreliable supplier with all the ensuing consequences".
DEMOCRACY, IRAN AND BELARUS
Mindful of Western unease over the course of democracy in Russia and the Kremlin's steady centralization of power, Putin has prudently acted to improve his own profile ahead of time. Just this month, he stepped into a controversy over a draft law that would have imposed tough curbs on foreign non-state bodies in Russia, virtually forcing parliament to tone it down.
Many Western critics, however, say the bill still provides for tough controls on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and is in line with Putin's attempts to bring all aspects of Russian life under Kremlin control before elections in 2007-8.
With Tehran heading for a showdown with Western powers over their suspicions it is seeking nuclear arms, the Iran issue may also test the cohesion of the G8 under Russian chairmanship.
Unconvinced by Western arguments, Moscow is still helping build Iran's first nuclear reactor and has blocked European Union moves to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council.
And a final unexploded bomb under Russia's G8 chair could be Belarus, an ex-Soviet ally of Russia whose veteran leader, Alexander Lukashenko, is a pariah in the West. Lukashenko is generally expected to secure a new term in a presidential election in March that many Western observers expect to be denounced as flawed by international monitors.
Putin may thus find himself in the awkward position of having to congratulate Lukashenko on an election victory denounced by his G8 partners.
"Belarus looks like being a bit of a train crash," said Katinka Barysch of the London-based Center for European Reform. - reuters
Russia warns of 'fatal' consequences for Ukraine as gas price row escalates
By Michael Mainville in Moscow - Published: 28 December 2005
A dispute between Russia and Ukraine about gas prices has escalated, with Kiev threatening to tap Russian gas shipments heading for Europe - and Moscow warning that attempts to raise the rent it pays to base its Black Sea fleet in a Ukrainian port would have "fatal" consequences.
The two are locked in a dispute over plans by the state-controlled Russian gas giant Gazprom to more than quadruple the price it charges Ukraine for natural gas, from about $50 (£29) per 1,000 cubic metres to $230, in line with world prices. Gazprom provides one-third of Ukraine's gas and has warned it will turn off the taps on Sunday if Kiev refuses.
Ukraine has sought to have the increase phased in over several years and upped the stakes this month by saying it was considering raising the $98m in annual rent Moscow pays for the use of its naval base in Sevastopol, on Ukraine's southern Crimean peninsula.
The Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov warned yesterday any attempt to change the terms of Moscow's lease would threaten agreements recognising Ukraine's post-Soviet borders. "The accord on conditions for the presence of the Russian Black Sea fleet is part of the main Russian-Ukrainian treaty, the second part of which includes the point on recognition of the inviolability of state borders ," he told state television. "To revise those agreements would be fatal."
The Ukrainian Prime Minister, Yuriy Yekhanurov, said Ukraine had the "unquestionable legal right" to take 15 per cent of Russian gas shipments to Europe that pass through its territory as a transit fee. About 80 per cent of Gazprom's European exports pass through Ukraine and the company supplies about half the European Union's gas.
Sergei Kuprianov, at Gazprom, said any attempt by Ukraine to siphon off gas destined for Europe would be regarded as theft. "All responsibility for shortage of Russian gas supplies to European customers will lie completely with Ukraine."
Mr Kuprianov denied claims by Ukraine's Energy Minister Ivan Plachkov that a deal had been reached to phase in the price rise. Mr Kuprianov called Mr Plachkov's statement "a provocation." Russia's Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko also denied an agreement was in place.
Russian officials insist the gas price rise is financially justified because it will end Moscow's long-standing energy subsidies to its former Soviet satellite. But many Ukrainians see the move as punishment for the country's pro-Western course under President Viktor Yushchenko, elected after last year's Orange Revolution. Gazprom has also announced gas price rises for Georgia and Moldova, both ex-Soviet republics seeking stronger ties with the West, but has extended a deal with Belarus, which is strongly allied with Russia, that will price natural gas at $46.68 per 1,000 cubic metres.
Mr Yushchenko's deputy chief of staff, Anatoly Matviyenko, raised the issue of the Black Sea fleet this month, saying if Gazprom wanted to charge world prices for gas, Ukraine "has the right to raise the question about suitable world prices... for the existence of foreign troops."
Russia cuts gas supply to Ukraine, Europe at risk
By Christian Lowe 1/1/2006 - MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia cut gas supplies to Ukraine on Sunday in a dispute that appeared to hit deliveries to a wintry Europe just as Moscow takes over as chairman of the Group of Eight hoping to showcase its reliability as an energy source.
The Russian state monopoly, Gazprom, said it had cut supplies to Ukraine by a quarter -- the level of Ukraine's own imports -- after Kiev refused to sign a new contract requiring it to pay four times as much. The switch-off already appeared to be having an effect farther west. Hungary's gas wholesaler MOL said its Russian deliveries via Ukraine had fallen by more than 25 percent, forcing it to order big consumers to switch to oil where possible from Monday.
Western Europe imports 25 percent of its gas from Russia and most of that is delivered by pipelines running across Ukraine. The European Union said it did not expect shortages but was concerned by the standoff.
Ukraine's Naftogaz energy company accused Russia of brinkmanship that was jeopardizing Europe's supplies. European gas demand is near peak levels because of freezing weather.
Though Russia says it is purely a business dispute, the row has fed concern that the Kremlin is prepared to use its vast energy resources as a political weapon.
Ukraine's Western-leaning president, Viktor Yushchenko, has irked Moscow by trying to take his ex-Soviet state on Russia's western border into NATO and the European Union.
Ukrainian officials say that is why the Kremlin is punishing Ukraine with such a huge price increase while letting more Moscow-friendly ex-Soviet states such as Belarus pay far less. Russia took over the annual presidency of the G8 club of industrialized democracies for the first time from Britain on New Year's Day, and its tenure will come under close scrutiny.
"Russia wants to make energy security its key message to the G8 community, and simultaneously it is becoming a source of danger," said Valery Nesterov, energy analyst at the Troika Dialog brokerage in Moscow.
French Industry Minister Francois Loos told Reuters Russia had given assurances about its gas exports, and that its G8 presidency meant it would act with a "sense of responsibility."
Yushchenko stuck to his position that Ukraine was prepared to pay Moscow's asking price, but not immediately. "Ukraine is ready to move to a market price from 2006. We do not need loans, we are ready to pay ... But it should not be a virtual price but a real price following the European model," he said after a 3-hour crisis meeting with top officials.
Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said exports to Ukraine had been cut by 120 million cubic meters a day -- equivalent to Ukraine's normal import volume.
He said enough gas was still being piped via Ukraine to maintain deliveries to other countries, and if they were not getting all their gas, it meant Ukraine was tapping into it. Eighty percent of Russian gas exports to western Europe pass through Ukraine. "We have information from the ground that shows Ukraine has started illegally siphoning off Russian gas destined for European consumers," Kupriyanov said.
The chief European importers of Russian gas are Germany, Italy and France, which would have to draw down reserves or seek alternative supplies if there was a major supply disruption. Energy ministers of Germany, Italy, France and Austria have made a joint appeal to Moscow and Kiev to ensure a steady flow of gas despite the stand-off. Energy officials from EU member states hold an emergency meeting on January 4. "The (European) Commission is concerned and is monitoring the situation" said Mireille Thom, a spokeswoman for the EU executive.
Moscow wants to raise the price of gas it sells to Ukraine to $230 per 1,000 cubic meters from the current $50 -- a level that reflects Soviet-era subsidized rates. Homes and businesses in Ukraine were still receiving gas on Sunday thanks to reserves and the country's own modest output. But it was expected shortages would begin to bite within days.
Yushchenko, propelled to power in the "Orange Revolution" a year ago, has linked the gas switch-off to the start of campaigning for a parliamentary election on March 26 in which he faces a tough challenge from pro-Moscow parties. Ukraine has threatened to retaliate by raising the rent that Russia's navy pays to use the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol as headquarters for its Black Sea fleet.
(Additional reporting by Anatoly Titkin, Dmitry Zhdannikov and Meg Clothier in Moscow, Olena Horodetska in Kiev, Jeff Mason in Brussels, Mark Heinrich in Vienna and Balazs Koranyi in Budapest) - news.yahoo.com
Russian tycoon buys into Pompey
Portsmouth - January 3, 2006 - 11:14AM
Russia-based businessman Alexandre Gaydamak is set to become the joint-owner of English Premiership side Portsmouth, the south-coast club announced on Monday. Gaydamak, the son of a Russian billionaire and a French national who has lived permanently in Moscow since 2002, is due to become an "equal partner" at Fratton Park and could provide the struggling team with additional finance.
In a statement, Portsmouth said: "Portsmouth Football Club today (Monday) confirmed it has reached an agreement in principle with Mr Alexandre Gaydamak over the future shareholding and development of the club. "Chairman Milan Mandaric will be delighted to welcome 30-year-old Alexandre Gaydamak to the club as an equal partner."
Gaydamak's father, Arcadi, is the owner of Israeli side Beitar Jerusalem but has lived permanently in Moscow since 2002. He recently appointed former France midfielder Luis Fernandez as Beitar coach.
Portsmouth stressed the arrival of Gaydamak jnr would have no effect on the position of manager Harry Redknapp. Redknapp told Sky Sports after his side's 2-1 defeat away to Blackburn Rovers: "I've not discussed it (in detail) with Milan yet. "He had a little chat with me this morning about the situation at the moment but I don't know where it's at at the moment. He said there was someone looking to come into the club but it's not done yet. "I get on with my job. If it's here, it's here, what will be, will be. "If someone's going to come in and improve the playing squad, which we need to do, then it's got to be good for the football club and that's the most important thing. That's far more important than individuals."
Earlier, the club's statement added that Portsmouth's business and and football structure would remain unchanged.
The arrival of Gaydamak could prove timely for Portsmouth, giving Redknapp extra spending power during this month's transfer window. Since his controversial return from a year at Pompey's arch-rivals Southampton, Redknapp has seen his side gain seven points from five games to revive hopes that it may yet stay up in the Premiership.
Some British newspaper reports had suggested £100 million ($A236.2 million) would be made available by Gaydamak for new players, affording Pompey a financial strength bettered only in Premiership by champions and leaders Chelsea, who are owned by Russian oil billionaire Roman Abramovich.
However, the Gaydamak family's wealth is not believed to come anywhere near that of Abramovich.
Gaydamak senior is involved in various industrial and banking concerns in Russia. In 2000, Paris magistrates issued an arrest warrant for him for questioning over an alleged arms-for-oil deal with Angola in the early 1990s. Gaydamak insisted his involvement was entirely legitimate as part of an agreement between the governments of Russia and Angola. Jean-Christophe Mitterand, the son of former French president Francois Mitterand, was given a 30-month suspended sentence for his involvement in the affair. - .channel news asia
The 53-year-old Arkady has a life story Jeffrey Archer could not make up: having arrived in France from Russia in the 1970s he progressed from working as a gardener to a fortune estimated at $800m (£455m) and a room named after him at the Louvre. He has not been convicted of any offence and rejects all the allegations. The arrest warrant, which is international, remains live. In Israel, where he now lives, he has worked hard to climb into the establishment's bosom, buying a football club, Beitar Jerusalem, and hosting a New Year party whose invitation list was a Who's Who of Israeli society and politics.
In November, however, he was questioned for 10 hours by the Israel Police National Serious and International Crimes Unit as part of the investigation into alleged money laundering at Bank Hapoalim's Hayarkon Street branch in Tel Aviv. Again Arkady vehemently denied wrongdoing, telling reporters he was simply questioned about his "business activity". A police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, however, told me the inquiries continue. "This is a huge investigation into 200 separate individuals with accounts of up to $550m [£310m]. Arkady Gaydamak was questioned and, wherever necessary, he will be questioned again.
"Mr Gaydamak does have big money," Rosenfeld added. "We are interested in where it came from and how he made it."
The very public Hayarkon Street actions are intended to demonstrate to the world that Israel is toughening up its financial controls; the country has been viewed as a possible target for money laundering partly because of the deluge of Russian money that came into the country after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 2000 Israel's financial controls were still classed as inadequate by the Financial Action Task Force, a group of 31 mostly European countries, including Britain, set up to counter criminal abuse of the banking system, and the Israeli government introduced the Prohibition on Money Laundering Law, with tough penalties for transgressors.
Pini Zahavi, the Israeli who has made his name as a middleman for global football deals since the 1970s, quickly became close to some of the wealthiest Russian immigrants and his connections eventually smoothed the gangway for Roman Abramovich's takeover of Chelsea in 2003. Zahavi, it turns out, was also involved in introducing Milan Mandaric to Alexandre Gaydamak.
Mandaric, a Croatian businessman then based in Florida, took Portsmouth out of administration in 1998, owning the shares via his Milan Mandaric Revocable Trust, whose place of registration is itself unclear. He has funded Pompey's rise to the Premiership, but relegation would not be a financially comfortable prospect. The wage bill almost doubled to £25.5m in 2003-04 as Pompey signed players able to keep the club up and Mandaric himself had, according to the most recent accounts, £15m in outstanding loans, out of total debts of £36m. The Gaydamak deal appears, therefore, to have cleared Mandaric's personal exposure.
Alexandre Gaydamak has been adamant that his father has nothing to do with the Portsmouth deal and the money is his alone. Sources close to Alexandre say that, at 29, he has a self-made fortune handsome enough to enable him to pay about £15m for half of Portsmouth and to "put in" a further £10-12m for the club to sign players who might keep them up. Mandaric has said he is satisfied that Arkady is not involved and that Alexandre is "a clean-cut young man who is a successful businessman and loves football".
Yet the available evidence on Alexandre's business career is patchy. He was a director of seven companies in Britain between February 1995 and May 2003, none of which is believed to be currently trading. He was the sole director of one, Monarch Fiduciary Limited, which went bust on June 29 2000 owing over £700,000, including £260,000 in unpaid VAT and £464,240 to the York Settlement Trust, an educational charity. We are, however, told Alexandre has himself made over £30m, mostly in Russian property deals, although no proof has been offered.
Other aspects of the deal are just as obscure: we do not know where the money has come from to pay Mandaric or where and in what vehicle half of Pompey will now be owned. The Premier League and FA are, as ever, silent. Question a referee's eyesight and you are up before the FA's disciplinary commission; buy one of the biggest clubs in the land and it does not even ask you in to chat about it. There is the "fit and proper person test", finally introduced after the game's authorities argued for years that it was unnecessary and unworkable, but it applies only to directors, not owners, and is a basic form-filling exercise in which people are asked to declare their own integrity. There is no requirement for buyers of what we still call "clubs" to show the source of their money to the football authorities, prove they actually have the money or even talk through the deal and their intentions for the club. - guardian
Germany warns Russia over Ukraine gas blockade
By Reuters, January 2 - Germany warned Russia on Monday that its unilateral decision to cut off gas supplies to Ukraine could harm Moscow's economic relations with the West. Gas supplies through Ukrainian pipelines to Europe started to fall off dramatically, at the height of winter, as a result of the Russian blockade, which has aroused Western fears about insecurity in the energy sector.
Russia, which takes over the G8 chairmanship for the first time this month and has sought to promote itself as a reliable energy source, cut its neighbour's gas supplies on Sunday after Ukraine rejected Moscow's demand for a fourfold price rise.
Ukraine accused Russia of blackmail on Monday, saying Moscow wanted to destabilise its economy. Moscow accused it of stealing supplies that were destined for Europe -- which Ukraine in turn denied. Russia said it had had no choice but to turn off the taps after Ukraine refused to sign a new contract that would have ended the preferential price treatment of the Soviet era.
German Economy Minister Michael Glos, whose country is Russia's biggest gas customer, said Moscow must act responsibly. "Thirty percent of our gas comes from Russia at the moment. That should be increased," Glos told the German radio station WDR. "But it can only be increased if we know that deliveries from the east are dependable." "Russia has the G8 presidency and also here (in this dispute) one should naturally act responsibly," Glos said.
Washington also stepped in. "Such an abrupt step creates insecurity in the energy sector in the region and raises serious questions about the use of energy to exert political pressure," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a statement on Sunday.
Pipelines taking Russian gas to Europe cross Ukraine, and the cut in supplies to Ukraine quickly affected central Europe. Austria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Croatia and Slovakia all reported a sharp fall in deliveries. Ordinary European consumers are unlikely to be affected in the short term, but any cut-off to industrial users could cause significant economic damage.
The Kremlin says the dispute is a commercial matter. But Kiev sees it as an attempt to undermine its pro-Western government, with a parliamentary election due in three months. There was no indication from either side on Monday that talks were going on, or of when they might resume.
Western Europe, where demand is near peak levels because of freezing weather, imports 25 percent of its gas from Russia, most of it via pipelines running across Ukraine. Norway, Western Europe's biggest natural gas exporter, said it was producing at full capacity and would not be able to make up the shortfall.
The Russian state monopoly, Gazprom, said enough gas was still being piped via Ukraine to supply other countries, and if they were not getting their gas, Ukraine must be diverting it. Gazprom said Ukraine had "stolen" gas destined for Europe worth more than $25 million. Ukraine denied this but said it would take gas if temperatures fell below freezing.
"A scenario aimed at creating economic pressure and blackmail has started," the Foreign Ministry in Kiev said.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said he wanted international experts to help with negotiations, calling for a moratorium on prices rises while talks go ahead.
"We think moving to market principles in the gas sector could secure a resolution to the conflict about gas supplies and transit," he said during a meeting with European ambassadors.
German, Italian, French and Austrian energy ministers have made a joint appeal to Moscow and Kiev to keep gas flows steady and an emergency European Union meeting is due on Wednesday. The Western-leaning Yushchenko is trying to take his state into the EU and NATO. This annoys Moscow, which does not like any loss of influence over the former Soviet Union.
Ukrainian officials say that is why the Kremlin is punishing Ukraine with a huge price increase while giving Moscow-friendly ex-Soviet states such as Belarus a much easier ride. Yushchenko, struggling to live up his people's high hopes after the "Orange Revolution" a year ago, says Ukraine is prepared to pay more for its gas but will not agree to a big jump all at once. Moscow wants to raise the price to $230 per 1,000 cubic metres from the current $50. Ukraine had threatened to retaliate by raising the rent that Russia's navy pays to use the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol as headquarters for its Black Sea fleet. - FT.com
Fears rise over second Russia gas dispute
By Sarah Laitner in Brussels, Neil Buckley in Moscow and Tom Warner in Kiev Published: January 11 2006
Russia's use of energy as a political tool was in the spotlight again on Wednesday as the European Union expressed concern about Moscow's dispute with Moldova over gas prices, and a crisis continued in Ukraine over its recent stand-off with Russia about gas.
Moscow stopped gas supplies to Moldova on January 1 after the former Soviet state refused to accept a sharp price increase by Gazprom, Russia's state-controlled gas company.
The stoppage was over-shadowed by the Kremlin's move on the same day to cut supplies to Ukraine, leading to sharp falls in supplies reaching western Europe through a giant transit pipeline across Ukraine.
Moscow and Kiev reached a deal last week to end a stand-off that exposed Europe's reliance on Russian energy.
On Wednesday the European Commission urged Russia and Moldova to return totalks over their gas price dispute.
"Like in the case of Ukraine and Russia, we very strongly encourage the sides to sit down again at the table to continue discussions and to reach an agreement," said Commission official Hilde Hardeman.
Her remarks followed concerns this week from the Austrian presidency of the EU over the continuing interruption in supplies to Moldova, which has left it dependent on gas imports from neighbouring Ukraine. The EU stepped up its involvement in Moscow's former domain last year when it signed a deal to help oversee a border between Ukraine and Moldova's break- away region of Transdnestria.
Gazprom is demanding that Moldova should pay $160 per thousand cubic metres of gas, twice last year's price. Vladimir Voronin, the Moldovan president, has said the rise was unacceptable and politically motivated.
The continuing interruption in supplies to Moldova is likely to add to concern in Brussels and EU member states over Europe's growing dependence on Russian energy supplies.
The cut in supplies to Ukraine fuelled a debate over whether EU countries should develop a common approach to ensuring energy supplies and invest more in nuclear energy.
Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, and Viktor Yushchenko, his Ukrainian counterpart, on Wednesday insisted that they would stick to last week's agreement to end their gas dispute. The two men met on Wednesday for the first time since the dispute, at the inauguration of Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakh president.
Mr Putin promised Gazprom would meet its commitments to Ukraine and Mr Yushchenko vowed that "not one letter" of the deal would be broken.
Their comments came amid fears the deal could unravel after Ukraine's parliament sacked the pro-western government of prime minister Yuri Yekhanurov on Tuesday, accusing it of striking a poor deal with Russia.
Gazprom raises pressure on three more nations as price row widens
By Carl Mortished, International Business Editor The Times January 07, 2006
GAZPROM'S campaign to increase sharply the cost of gas sold to neighbouring countries moved to Bulgaria, Moldova and Turkey yesterday as details emerged in the Ukraine of Gazprom's tightening grip over the gas market in the former Soviet satellite.
Confidential terms of this week's Ukrainian deal, leaked to the media by Yulia Timoshenko, the former Prime Minister and nationalist leader, reveal that the new gas price of $95 (£54) per 1,000 cubic metres is valid only for six months, exposing Ukraine to the risk of a second round of price increases before the end of the year.
The contract also gives RosUkrEnergo, a Gazpromcontrolled entity, a pivotal role in marketing gas in the Ukraine.
The renewed uncertainty over Ukraine is revealed as energy officials in Sofia accused Gazprom of seeking to treble the cost of gas supplied to Bulgaria.
Rumen Ovcharov, Bulgaria's Energy Minister, rejected as "unacceptable" Gazprom's demand that a barter system under which it supplies gas to Bulgaria in lieu of pipeline transit fees be scrapped. Instead, Gazprom wants to pay cash for transit to third countries, including Greece and Turkey, while Bulgaria would pay market rates, effectively raising the gas price from $87 per 1,000 cubic metres to $257.
Moldova's gas supply remained suspended for the sixth day yesterday as talks continued over a new supply agreement in which Gazprom is seeking a doubling of the price. Meanwhile, Turkey said it might seek international arbitration in a dispute with Gazprom. Botas, the Turkish gas utility, complained that its current price of $273 per 1,000 cubic metres is too high.
Christopher Granville, an equity strategist at UFG, the Moscow brokerage, reckons that Gazprom's price campaign is part of a commercial strategy to gain control of infrastructure and better margins.
This week's deal was celebrated as a climbdown by Gazprom from its demand of $230 per 1,000 cubic metres, ending a stand-off with Ukraine that led to disruption to gas supplies to Western Europe. However, Mr Granville reckons that Gazprom has secured two objectives: raising gas prices and more control over the Ukrainian market. "The agreed price of $95 is only for the first half of the year. If Turkmenistan puts up its gas price, it will be passed on by Gazprom," Mr Granville said.
Most of the gas supplied under the new Ukraine contract will be sourced from Turkmenistan, which is keen to secure a higher price from Gazprom, its sole buyer. The Ukraine contract grants sole import rights to RosUkrEnergo, a secretive Swiss-registered company controlled by Gazprombank and Centragas, an Austrian company owned by unnamed Russian and Ukrainian citizens.
Gazprom to Sell Gas to Europe at $250
Jan. 10, 2006
Russia's gas monopoly, Gazprom, intends to hike the average gas price for Europe to $250/ths cubic meters, Kommersant quoted Gazprom spokesman Sergey Kupriyanov as saying.
It appears this move of Gazprom has dashed expectations of some European states. Bulgaria, for instance, that buys the better part of Russia's gas at $83/ths cubic meters turned down Gazprom's proposal to revise the ten-year contract for barter transit of gas. Moldova that used to pay $80 refused the price of $160. Romania lashed out at Russia because of $270 to $285 prices and Turkey voiced its protest in the wake of the price growth to $273 and is studying the chances to go to the International Arbitration, should the parties fail to agree on the price drop.
On the other hand, Gazprom also endeavors to avoid material increase in gas price on reduction of the transit fee. The North European Pipeline that is to run through the bottom of the Baltic Sea is expected to directly deliver gas to Germany in the nearest years.
Russia against expansion of G-8
Moscow: Russia, the present President of the G-8, is against the expansion of the body and the induction of countries like India and China as they could introduce an "element of conflict", a senior Duma official has said.
"There have been various proposals on including Brazil, the Republic of South Africa, China, or India in this format, but I believe enlarging the format of this mechanism is unlikely and premature," Chairman of the Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee Konstantin Kosachyov was quoted as saying by Interfax.
"There are a lot of conflict situations, as, for instance, between China and India and between these countries and other G-8 members. In particular, there are well-known disagreements on a number of crucial issues between China and Japan, which is a G-8 member," Kosachyov explained.
The G-8 includes the US, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia. "The G-8 mechanism is unique in that the leaders of the major countries treat each other as reliable and promising partners in the existing format, and it is not certain that this would be preserved in case the format is enlarged," the chairman said.
Analysts said Kosachyov's statement betrays Russia's concerns over its own status in G-8, which it received as a reward for dismantling communist regime and embracing democracy under former president Boris Yeltsin.
Russia/Ukraine gas prices only agreed for 6 months
By Margaret Orgill LONDON, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Gas prices in last week's deal to resolve a dispute between Russia and Ukraine have only been agreed for the next six months, which raises the possibility of more price rows and supply cuts to Europe this year.
The agreement between the ex-Soviet neighbours aimed to avert a repeat of a New Year supply halt that shook Europe.
It was hailed as a five-year deal, but according to a version of the contract on Ukraine ex-premier Yulia Tymoshenko's website, sales prices have been set for a much shorter period. Under the deal, the price Russia pays for transporting gas across Ukraine, the route for 80 percent of its exports to Europe, has been fixed for five years until 2011.
According to Tymoshenko's website, Ukraine agreed to pay $95 per 1,000 cubic metres for Russian and Central Asian gas but this price has only been set for the first six months of 2006. Neither Russian gas giant Gazprom nor Ukrainian state gas company Naftogaz were available for comment.
Tymoshenko, dubbed the "gas princess" for her involvement in the energy sector in the 1990s, has launched a legal challenge to stop the deal which means higher prices for Ukraine. Under the deal, Gazprom will pay Ukraine transit fees of $1.6 per 1,000 cubic metres per 100 kilometres in cash for the next five years until 1 January 2011.
When the deal was announced, officials said Ukraine would buy Russian gas from Gazprom for $230 per 1,000 cubic metres and a mix of Russian and Central Asian gas for $95. Russian gas expert Jonathan Stern said in reality the $95 price covers just Central Asian gas as Russian gas is too expensive for Kiev.
"No Russian gas will be delivered to Ukraine this year. If Ukraine wants Russian gas then it will have to pay $230 which it can't afford," Stern, of the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies said. "The only gas it will get is Central Asian gas for $95. Gazprom has washed its hands of sales to Ukraine."
The accord uses a little-known middleman called RosUkrEnergo, owned equally by Gazprom and an Austrian bank Raiffeisen representing mainly Ukrainian investors, to deliver the gas to Ukraine. Under the deal, RosUkrEnergo will buy this year 41 billion cubic metres (bcm) of Turkmen gas, up to seven bcm of Uzbek gas, up to eight bcm of Kazakh gas and up to 17 bcm of Russian gas.
RosUkrEnergo will sell Ukraine 34 bcm of gas in 2006 at a price $95 for the first half of the year. This gas is only for Ukraine's domestic use and not export.
In 2007, the company could supply up to 58 bcm for domestic Ukraine use and 15 bcm which could be exported jointly with Gazprom. Ukraine is expected to consume 73 bcm of gas this year, with 20 bcm from its own production and the rest from Central Asia and Russia, Stern said.
For Yulia Timoshenko's website double click on: http://www.tymoshenko.com.ua/rus/news/first/2424/
Bulgaria in Russia gas supply row
Bulgaria says it has become embroiled in a tussle with Russia over the price it pays for its gas imports. Energy minister Rumen Ovcharov said Bulgaria was refusing demands to change its gas supply contracts with Russian state-run energy firm Gazprom. Switching the contracts would effectively raise the price Bulgaria pays for its gas imports from Russia.
The news comes days after Russia and Ukraine settled a row which temporarily hit gas supplies across much of Europe. Russia halted gas supplies to Ukraine on 1 January, after Kiev rejected a price rise that would have taken the cost of gas from $50 to $230.
Gazprom supplies Bulgaria with much of its gas at below the market price, in exchange for allowing the company to use its territory to provide a number of other countries with Russian gas.
"The Russian side demanded that we renegotiate the scheme of payment for transiting Russian gas through Bulgaria to Turkey, Greece and Macedonia," Mr Ovcharov told Bulgaria's bTV television.
Under one contract agreed between Bulgaria's state-owned energy firm Bulgargaz and Gazprom, Bulgaria currently pays $258 per 1,000 cubic metres of gas directly delivered to the country.
However, Russia pays transit fees for gas intended for other countries in the form of an additional contract which allows Bulgaria to pay $83 per 1,000 cubic metres for some of its supplies.
Mr Ovcharov said Gazprom had offered to pay cash for the transit of its gas across Bulgaria, and in turn raise the price of the second contract to $258 per 1,000 cubic metres.
"We will answer that this offer is unacceptable," Mr Ovcharov said. "There are no review possibility clauses in our contract signed in 1998 to run until 2010."
Bulgaria is almost entirely dependent on Russia for its supplies of gas, although the country relies on nuclear and coal-fired power stations for most of its energy needs.
Foreign Buyers Snap Up Gazprom
By Lyuba Pronina, Staff Writer The Moscow Times Wednesday, January 11, 2006.
Shares in Gazprom closed up 13 percent Tuesday, as the gas monopoly's local stock opened to international investors for the first time following a government reform put in place by President Vladimir Putin at the end of last year. The company's stock was also helped by the much-publicized deal Gazprom struck with Ukraine over the New Year's holiday, which is expected to boost its revenues by an estimated $2 billion annually.
"This is something that investors have been waiting for for nearly a decade. It's the end of an era," said James Fenkner, a managing partner at Red Star Asset Management fund.
While local shares are not yet available on either of the two main Moscow trading platforms, the RTS and MICEX, brokers with access to the smaller St. Petersburg Stock Exchange, where Gazprom locals are currently sold, were snapping up shares for foreigners.
"We have been getting foreigners into Gazprom locals as quickly as we can," Roland Nash, head of research at investment bank Renaissance Capital, said by telephone Tuesday.
No less than 57 million shares changed hands Tuesday, Nash said, roughly double the figure previously considered a good day's trading.
"What happened today is that it is a level playing field, international investors are treated equally to Russian investors, they do not need to hide behind the local structure," Fenkner said.
Until now, foreign ownership in Gazprom had been limited to 20 percent of the company's shares. Unable to buy the gas giant's stock domestically, the only option for foreign investors was to buy its London-listed American Depositary Shares.
Yet analysts estimate that foreigners already own more than 20 percent as a result of quasi-legal gray schemes that allowed foreigners to buy rights to the gas giant's shares through Russian companies. For Gazprom, it is a momentous event, Fenkner said, because the whole idea of the two-tier system employed to protect the company from being bought by foreigners on the cheap is no longer in place.
Gazprom shares surged 13 percent to a record 219.80 rubles ($7.60) by the close of trading Tuesday in St. Petersburg, the first business day in Russia after the weeklong New Year's break.
Although trade was opened to foreigners Tuesday, trading in Gazprom locals is not expected to begin in earnest until the shares are included in the dollar-denominated Russian Trading System and ruble-priced Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange, analysts said.
"In practice, we are not expected to see much volume in the following two weeks," said Chris Weafer, the chief strategist at Alfa Bank. "The systems for settlement of transactions [at the RTS and MICEX] are not yet in place," he added.
A source in Gazprom said late Tuesday, however, that it was only a matter of days before the RTS and MICEX joined in the Gazprom stock trade. "There are no limits left; any foreigner can buy as much shares as he likes," he said.
Weafer said the rise in Gazprom's local price on Tuesday followed 15 percent growth in the price of ADSs over the past five days, with the Russian market catching up after taking the first week in January as a holiday. In addition to the upcoming share liberalization, investors had cheered the deal that Gazprom struck with Ukraine last Wednesday, days after turning off its supply of gas in a dispute over prices.
Under the deal, Ukraine's state-owned gas company agreed to nearly double the price it pays for Russian gas.
"The reason they like it is the $1.5 billion to $2 billion in extra revenue every year Gazprom will generate from sales to Ukraine. Secondly, it confirms that Gazprom is moving away from its role as a proxy for Russia's foreign aid program," Weafer said.
Looking ahead, analysts do not, however, expect Gazprom shares to continue posting gains for the rest of the year.
"Gazprom shares will only surge again if it buys more oil assets like it did with Sibneft last year," said Dmitry Mangilev, an oil and gas analyst with brokerage Prospekt.
Gazprom last year paid $13.1 billion for 72 percent in oil major Sibneft, which was previously controlled by Chukotka Governor Roman Abramovich.
Similarly, growth on the RTS and MICEX indexes, which last year broke the 1,000-point mark for the first time, is expected to slow this year.
"We won't see the same growth as in 2005," said Sergei Zagoruiko, a trader at MDM Bank, estimating the RTS would not go beyond 1,300 or 1,400 this year.
Still, given the high level of oil prices, there will be something of a post-New Year's rally, Zagoruiko said.
The RTS closed up 5.8 percent at 1,190.34, while the MICEX climbed 5.3 percent to 1,064.91. Russia's largest oil producer, LUKoil, soared 7 percent to a record $63.55, while the No. 4 oil major, Surgutneftegaz, surged 13 percent to $1.227.
Staff Writer Catherine Belton contributed to this report.
Gazprom to manage Moldovagaz assets in Dniester Region
TASS - January 11, 2006, 04.23
CHISINAU, January 11 (Itar-Tass) - Moldova has agreed to put the assets of the joint venture Moldovagaz located in the breakaway Dniester Region under the management of Russia's gas giant Gazprom, Moldovagaz CEO Gennady Abashkin has told the media. This arrangement has been agreed on at the ongoing talks with Gazprom on a new contract for Russian gas supplies in 2006.
Abashkin would not specify the details of the terms, though.
Earlier, Moldovan presidential economics adviser Oleg Reidman told the media the country's integral gas pipeline system would be preserved and Gazprom would assume control of the Tiraspoltransgaz company – a subsidiary of Moldovagaz operating in the Dniester Region. So far Gazprom has held the controlling stake in Moldovagaz (50 percent plus one share). Moldova had another 35.33 percent, the Dniester Region, 13.44 percent, and individuals, the remaining shares.
The Dniester Region's parliament in November 2005 made a decision to quit Moldovagaz and to hand over half of its stake in the enterprise to Gazprom in payment for the natural gas debts.
Gazprom to buy 30 bcm of Turkmen gas in 2006
New Europe / The European Weekly - January 8 -14, 2006
Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov and Russian gas giant Gazprom's CEO Alexei Miller on December 29 in Ashgabat signed an agreement on Turkmen natural gas shipments to Russia in 2006, Interfax reported. According to the agreement, Gazprom is to buy 30 billion cubic metres of gas from Turkmenistan in 2006 at 65 Euro per 1,000 cubic metres. "The operating conditions for 2007 onward will be defined in the second half of 2006 as implied by the effective contract until 2028," the release said. Earlier the price of Turkmen gas was set at 44 Euro for 1,000 cubic metres. In their statements following the signing ceremony, Niyazov and Miller stressed the importance of this document not only for the successful partnership in the gas field but for the Turkmen-Russian relation as a whole and for strengthening ties of friendship and cooperation between Turkmenistan and Russia.
The Russian delegation also discussed aspects of bilateral cooperation in the gas sector in 2006 and onward. "Participants in the meeting were satisfied with the dynamic development of cooperation and the implementation of all previous understandings. The sides acknowledged the significant rise in prices on the market of fuel, materials and equipment for the oil and gas sector and agreed to adjust the price of Turkmen gas sold to Gazprom, with due consideration of these factors," a Gazprom release read. Niyazov also thanked the Russian leadership and Gazprom for the efforts to develop relations between the two countries and said Turkmenistan would always adhere to this partnership. "We are ready to jointly access the world markets and develop energy resources. Taking this opportunity, I would like to congratulate our guest and all Gazprom staff on the New Year! I wish you successes in work and life," Niyazov said.
He added, "We recently signed a contract on the delivery of 40 billion cubic metres of gas to Ukraine. The deal envisions a slightly lower price, but I think that it is just a matter of time," The government Turkmendovletkhabarlary agency quoted Niyazov as saying.
Gazprom, Belarus Agree on Increase in Gas Transit to Europe.
Widening transit of Russia's gas to Europe was in the center of attention at Sunday talks held between Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko and deputy head of Gazprom's management committee Alexander Medvedev, Interfax reported.
The highlight of Lukashenko-Medvedev's talks was cooperation between Beltransgaz of Belarus and Russia's Gazprom. The parties agreed to set up a special working group, which would study definite projects to be implemented in the near term.
Some of those projects relate to increasing underground storage of gas in Belarus up to 1 billion cubic meters and to extending transit facilities in an effort to widen gas deliveries to Europe through Belarus.
Russia currently ships most of its gas to Western and Central Europe through Ukraine.
Will the gas deal come unstuck?
By David Crouch in London - January 11 2006
Riding a tide of indignation, Ukraine's parliament voted on Tuesday to punish the government for doing a deal with Russia over the import and transit of natural gas. Parliamentarians had little difficulty poking holes in the two-page document signed by Russia and Ukraine on January 3.
First, the deal promised a relatively moderate rise in gas import prices for Ukraine, but only for a six month period. What happens to gas prices after July 1 2006 is up to the Russians, and the threat of price hikes will hang over the new Ukrainian executive after parliamentary elections in March. At the same time, the deal commits Ukraine to charging a fixed price for the transit of Russian gas through Ukrainian territory for five years, regardless of any increase in the market price that Russia can charge European customers during that time. Finally, there is the opaque nature of the company RosUkrEnergo that will have a monopoly on buying gas from Russia – including Central Asian gas that passes through Russian territory -- and selling it to Ukraine. Ukrainian prime minister Yuri Yukhanurov was singularly unable to explain to parliament who owns the company and why it had been chosen to play this role.
The Russian business newspaper Kommersant points out that the ownership structure of RosUkrEnergo is reminiscent of the unknown shell company that snapped up the main oil production assets belonging to Yukos – whose chairman Mikhail Khodorkovsky is languishing in a Siberian jail – at auction in 2004. The company was swiftly transfered to state-controlled oil giant Rosneft.
Ukraine's belligerent parliamentarians found support in the shape of the country's big business. A statement by industrialists representing major steel makers and energy providers said the deal "placed the economy under threat of collapse and loss of its market competitiveness" and demanded that responsible officials resign for creating this "extremely dangerous situation".
Ukraine's president Viktor Yushchenko has vowed that the gas deal will remain in force and that his government will not resign. Changes to the Ukrainian constitution that came into force on January 1 permit parliament to dismiss the government, but don't allow it to appoint a new one until after the March elections. Ministers are therefore likely to remain at their posts until then, but with the preposition "acting" added to their job descriptions.
At the same time, Mr Yushchenko's angry threat on Tuesday to disband parliament is also unlikely to carry much weight. The president's authority to do so is doubtful under the new constitution, which forbids him to do so in the last six months of the parliament.
Parliament is demanding that Ukraine drag Russia through the European courts to establish the legal precedence of the former agreement, signed in 2004, under which Ukraine imported gas from Russia at a knock-down price.
But such a step is fraught with problems for Ukraine, as Mr Yekhanurov pointed out: "We could have dug our heels in and not signed any agreement. But cases in Stockholm [the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce ] last for months, if not years," he said in parliament. "Who needs a victory if it means several years without gas, with a collapse of industry and social spending?"
When Mr Yushchenko met Russian president Vladimir Putin on Wednesday he told reporters: "Ukraine and Russia have entered an excellent phase in bilateral relations, a phase of personal friendship, which allows us to discuss wonderful prospects."
Financial markets were less sanguine and the normally tightly controlled Ukrainian currency, the hryvnia, dropped to its lowest level since April 2005. Since Viktor Yushchenko's face was disfigured over a year ago, there have been no shortage of allegations that the Kremlin arranged for him to be poisoned. Russian natural gas, however, looks like being equally venomous to Mr Yushchenko's presidency.
Moscow on 'strict' energy conservation as freeze deepens
Wed Jan 18, MOSCOW (AFP) - Moscow switched to a "strict" energy conservation program and another two people froze to death as overnight temperatures plunged below minus 30 C (minus 22 F) in the capital and to substantially colder levels elsewhere in the country.
Students at state primary schools were allowed to stay home at parents' discretion and the stalwart Kremlin ceremonial guard service said it may halve shifts around the eternal flame at the foot of the Kremlin walls to 30 minutes because of the cold.
Another two people died of hypothermia on the streets of Moscow and 15 others were hospitalized as a result of exposure to the cold, Interfax news agency said, while forecasters said temperatures would drop even further in the coming days.
Television news broadcast footage of homeless people crouched or sprawled over steam vents or huddling in entrances to train stations to keep warm and ITAR-TASS news agency said around 40 trolley buses stalled overnight in Moscow as a result of the freezing temperatures.
More than 200 factories in the Moscow area were informed Tuesday they would have their power cut to conserve energy and the business daily Vedomosti said that from Wednesday Moscow "is switching to a strict energy conservation regime."
This would mean targeted power cutbacks to various businesses as well as turning off electricity for billboard advertisements, casinos and gaming halls housed in buildings adorned with piles of neon lights and at construction sites that use powerful floodlights for nightime work.
Prior to announcement of the latest two deaths in Moscow, officials said that eight people died Tuesday throughout Russia as a result of the frigid weather, caused when Arctic air from Siberia swept over the western "European" part of Russia where most of the country's population is.
In Russia's Volga region, six people drowned when the ice broke under a minibus that was crossing a frozen river near the city of Nizhny Novgorod. The minibus was driving on the ice at a point normally passable in the summer.
"There were 15 people in the vehicle, nine managed to escape and six drowned," an official with the emergency ministry told the Interfax news agency.
State-controled gas monopoly Gazprom warned power companies throughout the European part of Russia that it might have to reduce gas deliveries by up to 50 percent because of the cold, a spokesman for Russia's power grid RAO EES, Margarita Nagoga, told Interfax.
The MFB stock exchange, a secondary bourse that rents space in a building from another firm, suspended trading early on Tuesday after being among those warned of a possible power shortfall.
Big oil and gas field found in Caspian Sea
By Andrew E. Kramer and Heather Timmons The New York Times - THURSDAY, JANUARY 26, 2006
MOSCOW Lukoil, Russia's largest private oil operator, has said it discovered a major oil and natural gas field in the Russian sector of the Caspian Sea.
"This year is unique in terms of reserve growth," Leonid Fedoun, a Lukoil vice president, said Wednesday at a news conference in London, where the stock is traded, noting that the company had added a total of 4.5 billion barrels to its estimated oil reserves.
The company, which is already among the world's largest by the volume of its reserves, also said Wednesday that it had acquired Primorieneftegaz, a company with rights to drill in a flood plain north of the Astrakhan region in southern Russia. That purchase accounted for 2.7 billion barrels of the new reserves, Lukoil said.
In announcing the Primorieneftegaz acquisition, Lukoil said it would develop a petrochemical plant in southern Russia to produce plastics, fertilizers and other chemicals using the gas. The country is a net importer of petrochemicals, and making those products domestically will allow Lukoil to offer them at lower costs because of the savings on transport.
While Western and Asian energy companies have been struggling in recent years to lock in energy supplies, their Russian counterparts are thought to have great potential to increase their reserves. In spite of exploding prices, though, Russian companies have had little incentive to do so in recent years because of high domestic taxes.
While the Caspian field was clearly good news for Lukoil, market expectations had been running high after it said this month that it would announce a major development in London.
The discovery of the Filanovsky field is a significant find for Lukoil, which has been exploring the shallow, stormy and sometimes ice-clogged waters of the north Caspian for a decade with little to show until now besides modest gas condensate discoveries.
The find "does change our perspective of the north Caspian," Fedoun added.
The field holds probable and possible reserves of 600 million barrels of oil and 1.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, the company said. The oil is lower in sulfur than most other Russian oil, particularly the Ural blend benchmark Russian crude, and is thus more valuable.
While large, the new offshore field is not among the world's giants, the fields known as "elephants" to oil workers that can change the fate of companies or countries. The nearby Kashagan field, found in the Caspian Sea in the spring of 2000, holds 10 to 20 times as much recoverable oil.
For comparison, Alaska's Prudhoe Bay oil field held an estimated 25 billion barrels of oil and supplies 17 percent of U.S. demand.
The hourglass-shaped Filanovsky field is about 40 kilometers, or 25 miles, long and 2 to 3 kilometers wide, and lies about 2 kilometers beneath the seabed, Lukoil's chief geologist, Anatoly Novikov, said during an interview in Moscow.
Lukoil found the field with its eighth well in its exploration bloc. The first hopeful signs came in October, when sandstone core samples were brought to the surface dripping with crude oil as if from a sponge, Novikov said.
The area was not explored during the Soviet period because it was a preserve for migrating sturgeon, the source of black caviar. The restriction was lifted in 1995, after Kazakhstan began exploring the region, a Lukoil spokesman said.
Wrap: Russia-Ukraine gas dispute enters new phase
MOSCOW, January 25 (RIA Novosti) - The natural gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine showed signs of escalating again Wednesday, as announcements from the Ukrainian premier cast doubt on an agreement that was intended to resolve the spat, and as Russia announced its intention to charge its neighbor for siphoning off supplies bound for Europe.
In an exchange of statements on the issue, Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov said his country would not be able to find the funds to pay for a stake in a joint venture that was to have paved the way toward better relations, while the chief executive of Russian energy giant Gazprom said the company would increase daily supplies to its European customers even though Ukraine appeared to be tapping more and more gas to cope with the current cold snap.
Yekhanurov said Ukraine could not purchase a stake in RosUkrEnergo, thereby postponing the signing of a natural gas deal between Gazprom and Ukraine's national gas company Naftogaz.
"We do not plan to purchase shares in RosUkrEnergo," the premier said. "We do not have the money for this."
RosUkrEnergo, a Swiss-based company that transports Central Asian natural gas to Ukraine via Russia, is owned half by Gazprom subsidiary Gazprombank, and half by Austrian bank Raiffeisen. However, but the identity of its ultimate owners is unclear. Russia wants Naftogaz to participate in the joint venture in the interests of company transparency.
Yekhanurov told a Cabinet session: "It looks as if the contract will not be signed today." However, he said consultations with Gazprom would continue.
Gazprom said it hoped to overcome the differences in approaches between the sides, and sign documents to establish the joint venture.
Yekhanurov's comments are the latest twist in a bitter dispute over prices for gas delivered by Gazprom. The Russian energy giant cut off supplies to Ukraine on January 1 after negotiations on new prices ended in failure. Gazprom wanted Ukraine to pay a market price for gas supplied, while Ukraine wanted to retain a barter agreement under which it received gas at a discount.
After Gazprom turned off the taps to Ukraine, the company said a shortfall had been registered in gas arriving at European destinations via three pipelines through Ukrainian territory. The dispute was officially settled with a new price agreement on January 4.
In a follow-up of the incident, Russian Industry and Energy Ministry Viktor Khristenko quoted Gazprom as saying that it would bill Ukraine for gas tapping.
"The financial consequences [of gas tapping] are absolutely clear," he said.
Khristenko urged Ukraine to limit its domestic electricity consumption, rather than trying to solve its domestic energy shortage problem by taking from its neighbors, in particular Poland, which has been equally hit by the freezing weather.
Yekhanurov conceded Wednesday that his country had been using more natural gas than usual recently because of the unusually low temperatures.
"We have reached a consumption level of 427 million cubic meters per day, including 161 million cu m for consumer purposes," Yekhanurov said. "That is 70 million cu m more than previously."
Ukraine consumed 568 million cu m of natural gas in the last 24 hours alone, he said, adding that the government had instructed regional authorities to reduce gas consumption, and was considering shutting down industrial facilities to save energy.
He also said Europe had expressed understanding over the difficult energy situation in Russia and Ukraine caused by the recent freeze. "We do not have problems with Europe," the Ukrainian prime minister said responding to rumors of European criticism over shortfalls in natural gas supplies due to excessive gas consumption by Ukraine. "The problems are being created by those who want to wage a new round of information wars."
Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller said the company would increase natural gas supplies to Europe via Ukraine, despite its alleged gas siphoning. "We have been increasing gas supplies on the Russian-Ukrainian border daily, despite the complicated situation," Miller said.
Energy crisis as Ukraine & Georgia freeze
Thousands without heating as record cold grips Ukraine
By Andrew Osborn Published: 27 January 2006
Ukraine and Georgia are facing an energy crisis as the coldest weather in a generation forces them to use record amounts of gas.
Ukraine's Health Ministry reported that 181 people had died of exposure in the past five days, many of them homeless, and more than 3,000 people had been taken to hospital. Temperatures in Ukraine have plunged as low as minus 25C and it was minus 13C yesterday in the capital Kiev. The unusual Arctic conditions have prompted Ukraine to use record amounts of gas, which has prompted Russia, its chief gas supplier, to accuse it of stealing gas destined for freezing western Europe. A large number of Ukrainian factories may have to be closed until the crisis passes and in the city of Alchevsk, more than 67,000 people have been without heating for six days.
But the situation appears worse in Georgia, which appears to have run down gas reserves and many people are without electricity. The Georgian President, Mikhail Saakashvili, cut short his visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, yesterday to deal with the crisis. Just about everything that could have gone wrong in Georgia has gone wrong. First the main pipeline supplying the country with Russian gas was mysteriously blown up by saboteurs and has yet to be repaired because of the cold weather. And then the fierce cold ruptured power lines leading from one of the country's most important hydroelectric power stations.
Mr Saakashvili was quick to blame foul play by the Russians, accusing them of trying to punish his country for adopting a pro-Western line in recent years. Moscow dismisses this as paranoid nonsense. Whatever the truth, it was minus 7C in the capital Tbilisi yesterday. Schools were shut and power was restricted to hospitals, bakeries and water pumping stations. Much of the city was plunged into darkness, public transport ground to a halt and 40 per cent of residents were reported to be without heating gas. People were seen cutting down trees for firewood.
Georgia shivers despite Iran deal
People in Georgia are facing several more days without heating, despite a deal with Iran to provide gas supplies to ease the country's energy crisis.
It will take two days for the Iranian gas to reach Georgia and yet longer for the gas to reach everyone in need. Millions have been suffering the worst winter for decades, without power, with temperatures plummeting to minus 20C. The outages happened after explosions wrecked a gas pipeline from Russia and bad weather damaged power lines. Many Georgians have been trying to keep warm around makeshift wood-burning stoves, or queuing for hours to buy kerosene or bottled gas.
"My kids are freezing and my patience is running out," Lia Davitashvili, a Tbilisi resident who has been without gas for a week and electricity for three days, told Reuters.
The Georgian president, Mikhail Saakashvili, has blamed Moscow for the crisis.
Mr Saakashvili described the unexplained loss of the gas pipeline last Sunday as a planned act of sabotage by the Russian officials.
The Kremlin said his statements were hysterical and outrageous and denied foot-dragging over the repairs to the pipeline. Officials say the repairs are still continuing, refuse to say when they expect supplies to be resumed.
Chechen rebels have been blamed for previous damage to pipelines.
But the BBC's Natalia Antelava in Tbilisi says many of Mr Saakashvili's countrymen agree with him. Our correspondent says it is widely believed that Russia is simply punishing Georgia for its pro-Western course and its desire to join Nato and rid itself of the Russian military presence. Georgian officials have promised that the energy crisis will soon be over, but our correspondent says that while transmission lines and pipelines will be fixed, the real challenge will be to fix the damage the crisis has done to Georgia's already tense relationship with Russia.
Story from : BBC NEWS
Betting on a Gusher
Putin believes he can transform a former state gas monopoly into a world-class energy company.
By Owen Matthews Newsweek Jan. 30, 2006 issue - Vladimir Putin is betting big on oil and gas. for the first time in its 40-year history, the state gas giant Gazprom plans to allow foreign investors to buy its stock directly, perhaps as early as the end of January, on the St. Petersburg Stock Exchange.
This month's offer was to be the first step in a campaign to make Gazprom the ExxonMobil of Russia, one of the world's great energy companies. Indeed, Putin had installed his old friend Alexey Miller, 43, as CEO of Gazprom in 2001, with a mandate to rid the former state monopoly of the privateering, corruption and cronyism that had overtaken it after the fall of the Soviet Union. And Miller and his new lieutenants have vowed to make Gazprom "the largest energy business in the world" by 2010.
It certainly has the potential. Gazprom is the top global supplier of natural gas, controlling 16 percent of the known reserves, and a top-20 oil company. It's aggressively expanding into lucrative new markets in Western Europe with a $5 billion new pipeline project under the Baltic, and eying schemes to export liquid gas to the United States. Just two weeks ago Gazprom shares rose 23 percent, on news of rising world energy prices. Yet even so, its market capitalization is just $1.3 million per billion barrels of proven reserves (compared with $17 million at ExxonMobil), making it one of the cheapest energy stocks in the world.
The Gazprom discount is a function of politics and Putin. Investors will remain wary so long as he treats Gazprom above all as a tool for enforcing his political will, rather than a real private company, in the Western sense. For all Putin's efforts to reform Gazprom, a recent spat with Ukraine demonstrated that the company is still run as a branch of the Kremlin. On New Year's Day, in an attempt to force Ukraine to pay full European market prices for its gas—and, diplomats say, to punish the Orange Revolution that brought an anti-Russian team to power in Kiev—Gazprom shut off Ukraine's gas supplies. European customers farther down the pipeline immediately felt the pressure drop and complained loudly. Within days a complex deal with Ukraine restored pressure, and though both sides claimed victory, the damage was done.
Russia's reputation as a reliable energy partner was shaken—and with it, Gazprom's ambition to become the country's first brand-name multinational in good global standing. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice criticized Russia for the "politically motivated" cutoff and warned that if Moscow wants to be "a part of the international economy" it should "play by its rules." Gazprom says that's unfair. "It would be naive to think that economic issues can be separate from politics," says Alexandr Medvedev, Gazprom's deputy CEO. "Lenin used to say that politics is a concentrated expression of economics."
Perhaps. But most investors hardly see Lenin, the late father of Soviet communism, as a guiding light for modern multinationals. "Can you imagine ExxonMobil or Chevron switching off the pump to Canada or Mexico because these countries disagreed with Bush on Iraq?" asks Karina Litvack, head of governance at F&C Asset Management in London. Gazprom is about to go on worldwide sale at a time when its senior managers seem sharply at odds with the free-market world view that dominates global financial markets.
Putin has been trying to have it both ways, pushing Gazprom to attract foreign money without loosening Kremlin control. Miller, an economics Ph.D., worked alongside Putin in the early 1990s in the office of leading reformer Anatoly Sobchak, then the mayor of St. Petersburg. Ever since, say investors, Miller's been doing a good job of cleaning up the monopoly's endemic corruption and inefficiency, stamping out the kind of asset stripping that placed Gazprom execs among Russia's richest men. And Miller is popular among the new generation of Westernized young managers he brought in with him—several have framed beer ads on the walls of their offices in Gazprom's giant skyscraper on the outskirts of Moscow, proclaiming it's miller time!
But according to a source close to the Gazprom senior management, who did not wish to speak on the record, Miller couldn't have tackled the old Gazprom regime on his own; Putin also had a hands-on role in the makeover: "Putin runs Gazprom in critical situations, and makes many of the day-to-day decisions too." All top managers have been personally appointed by Putin, and all major projects, especially those involving negotiations with Europe, are Kremlin-approved.
Putin has also begun to seek out famous Western names to help make over the image of Russian energy businesses: former U.S. Commerce secretary Donald Evans turned down an offer, but former German chancellor Gerhard Schroder now heads a Baltic pipeline project for Gazprom. According to a source close to Gazprom, Schroder was in regular touch with Putin through the Ukraine crisis, and even placed calls to Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko to urge a speedy resolution. To Vadim Kleiner of Hermitage Capital Management, the biggest current foreign investor in Gazprom, the Kremlin role is both perfectly legit, since the state remains the largest shareholder, and an improvement over the old Gazprom regime, which managed the company "as a private vehicle for benefits and assets divestitures to the relatives of management."
Now, reckons Eric Kraus, the American chief strategist at Moscow-based SovlinkSecurities, Gazprom "is increasingly being run as a for-profit operation." Miller has launched a legal campaign to regain gas fields lost by Gazprom in dodgy sell-offs between 1997 and 2001; so far, nearly three quarters of the lost assets have been recovered. And gas supplies to international clients (other than Ukraine) are now delivered directly by Gazprom, rather than by shady middlemen as in the past. Overall, the company is "speeding up the move toward getting full market value for its gas in the former Soviet markets," says Anatoly Romanovsky, Hermitage's investment director.
Russian investors certainly agree—corporate Moscow is rolling in oil dividends, and a lot of those rubles have been pouring into Gazprom. The company's shares have risen from 51 cents to $8.44 since 2000, and spiked recently due in part to Russia-based investors' buying the stock in anticipation of the first broad sales to foreigners, says Pharos Russia Fund president Peter Halloran. Mainly, says Halloran, "everyone wants to be in energy stocks now." Gazprom stock is now available to foreigners through special American Depository Receipts issued by the Bank of New York, but will soon go on sale through St. Petersburg and ultimately on international exchanges such as London.
Not so long ago Gazprom seemed an unlikely candidate for foreign sales of any kind. Considered a Russian national treasure and strategic asset, it was defended by a "ring fence" of protectionist barriers, backed by the increasingly nationalist regime of President Putin (who reportedly aspires to lead Gazprom when he retires). Yet the ring fence was recently ripped down, out of necessity. Though Gazprom has begun to talk of charging market rates, less than a quarter of its gas is now sold at the market price of about $230 per thousand cubic meters. The rest is sold cheaply inside Russia and former Soviet republics, and Gazprom needs money. Simply to maintain current output, Gazprom officials say, they will need foreign investment of $173 billion to $203 billion over the next 15 years.
It's still not clear how much foreign money will be forthcoming. There are plenty of doubters. Roland Nash, chief strategist at Renaissance Capital in Moscow, says the market has priced in the "ring-fence removal," leaving Gazprom poised for a fall: "The company has a lot of issues, such as huge cost overheads which it has been unable to cut." Jerome Guillet, a banker who worked with Gazprom in the 1990s, says the deal with Ukraine "is obviously shady" because Ukraine will buy not from Gazprom but from RusUkrEnergo, the last in a line of shell companies that traded on the difference between low gas prices in the former Soviet Union and the higher European price. "What is obvious is that these deals are not driven by the best interests of Gazprom or of Russia, but by the interests of people in power in both" Russia and Ukraine, says Guillet.
Those doubts are mirrored by Western governments. European energy officials are rethinking their growing reliance on natural gas, and Russia as their gas supplier of choice. Many Europeans note that Putin, the 2006 chairman of the G8 group of industrialized nations, wants energy security to top this year's G8 agenda. But energy markets won't be more secure if Gazprom remains a political cudgel for the Kremlin. Gazprom officials complain that their embargo on Ukraine was misunderstood—all they wanted was a fair market price—but even investors who are buying the stock don't buy that argument. How can they, when Putin still calls the final shots?
With Anna Nemtsova in Moscow - URL: newsweek
Georgia cuts Russian embassy gas
Georgia has cut off gas supplies to the Russian embassy in the country, after blaming Moscow for its energy crisis during freezing weather.
The mayor of the capital, Tbilisi, said it was more urgent to heat homes than buildings used by those taking part in an "energy blockade" on Georgia.
Many Georgians have been without gas or electricity after blasts wrecked a pipeline from Russia.
Moscow said supplies were now repaired and services would resume on Sunday.
The BBC's Natalia Antelava in Tbilisi says much of Georgia is in darkness. The crisis comes during the coldest winter for decades, with temperatures of -20C.
Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili described the unexplained loss of the gas pipeline last Sunday as a planned act of sabotage by the Russian officials.
He said it was time for Georgia and the rest of Europe to look for alternative energy supplies. Officials have already struck a deal with Iran to provide gas to ease the crisis, but Iranian gas is not expected to reach Georgia until Sunday night at the earliest.
The Kremlin said Mr Saakashvili's statements were outrageous and denied foot-dragging over the repairs to the pipeline. Many Georgians have been trying to keep warm around makeshift wood-burning stoves, or queuing for hours to buy kerosene or bottled gas.
"My kids are freezing and my patience is running out," Lia Davitashvili, a Tbilisi resident who has been without gas for a week and electricity for three days, told Reuters news agency.
Chechen rebels have been blamed for previous damage to pipelines. But our correspondent says many of Mr Saakashvili's countrymen agree with him.
She says it is widely believed that Russia is simply punishing Georgia for its pro-Western course and its desire to join Nato and rid itself of the Russian military presence. Georgian officials have promised that the energy crisis will soon be over, but our correspondent says the real challenge will be to fix the damage the crisis has done to Georgia's already tense relationship with Russia.
Gazprom appoints Shtokman banks
The Russian energy giant Gazprom has appointed three banks as advisors for its Shtokman gas exploration project in the Barents Sea, Interfax has reported.
Quoting a source close to the talks, the Russian news agency says the French bank Calyon has been chosen, knocking HSBC and BNP Paribas out of the race.
Calyon would join a Russian project finance bank and the in-house bank Gazprombank to advise on the project.
The giant Shtokman natural gas deposit could be worth up to $20bn. Gazprom, which is already the world's largest gas producer, is about to start pumping gas from the hitherto unexploited field, in the Russian parts of the Barents Sea.
Gazprom has invited foreign oil companies to pitch for participation in a consortium that should be ready by 1 April to start developing the strategically crucial field, 555 kilometres north-east of Murmansk on the Kola peninsula. The 1,400 square kilometre field is set to become the world's largest offshore gas field with 3.2 trillion cubic metres of gas contained in reservoirs two kilometres below the seabed, which is itself at a depth of 350 metres.
"The Shtokman field is one of Gazprom's most significant projects in the next five years," Gazprom's deputy chairman Alexander Medvedev told BBC News in a recent interview.
"It is a unique field, with unique reserves. "If all goes according to plan, the field should be ready by 2010." - BBC
Russia's Putin backs Uzbeks on Andizhan violence
MOSCOW, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin defended his support for Uzbekistan over a bloody crackdown on protesters in the town of Andizhan last year, saying on Tuesday no one wanted a "second Afghanistan" in Central Asia.
"We know better than you what happened in Andizhan," he said in reply to a question from a Western reporter. "We know who trained the people who ignited the situation in Uzbekistan and in particular in that town, where they were trained, and to what level."
Uzbek President Islam Karimov's government says 187 people, mostly foreign-trained Islamist "terrorists" and "bandits" died when troops suppressed the uprising in the mostly Muslim Ferghana Valley town.
Officials deny that troops killed innocent bystanders.
Witnesses, including a Reuters reporter, saw troops open fire on a large crowd including women and children that had gathered in the town centre on May 13 after armed men freed 23 local businessmen from jail.
Eyewitnesses said hundreds were killed, prompting criticism from the West. Since the bloodshed Russia and China have both sought closer ties with Uzbekistan and backed Karimov's stance.
"You probably know what the Ferghana Valley is. You know how complicated the situation is there, the condition of the people, their level of economic well-being," Putin said. "We don't need a second Afghanistan in Central Asia. We will act very carefully, we do not need revolutions, we need evolutions to lead to the establishment of those (democratic) values you spoke about."
Putin Boasts of New Missile's Capability
By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV
The Associated Press Tuesday, January 31, 2006; MOSCOW -- President Vladimir Putin boasted Tuesday that Russia has new missiles capable of penetrating any missile defense system and said he had briefed the French president on their capabilities.
"Russia has tested missile systems that no one in the world has," Putin said. "These missile systems don't represent a response to a missile defense system, but it doesn't matter to them whether that exists or not. They are hypersonic and capable of changing their flight path."
President Vladimir Putin speaks at his annual press conference in Moscow's Kremlin, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2006. Putin on Tuesday defended Russia's place in the Group of Eight leading industrial nations and lashed out at critics who allege Moscow is unfit to chair the organization this year. (AP Photo/ITAR-TASS, Alexei Panov, Presidential Press Service ) (Alexei Panov - AP)
Putin said the new missiles were capable of carrying nuclear warheads. He wouldn't say whether the Russian military already had commissioned any such missiles. Putin said he had shown the working principles of the missile system to French President Jacques Chirac during a visit to a Russian military facility. "He knows what I'm talking about," Putin said.
In April 2004, Chirac became the first Western leader to visit Russia's top-secret Titov space control center, which controls all of its satellites and is involved in launching its intercontinental ballistic missiles. Putin said the new missiles were capable of changing both altitude and direction, making it impossible for an enemy to intercept them since "a missile defense system is designed to counter missiles moving along a ballistic trajectory."
Putin and other Russian officials have boasted of the new missiles in similar comments in recent years, but they haven't identified them or given any further details other than about their ability to change their flight path on approach to a target.
Military analysts said Russian forces experimented with a maneuvering warhead during a missile launch several years ago, but voiced doubt about their ability to deploy such weapons anytime soon. Analysts said the new warheads, designed to zigzag on their approach to targets, could be fitted to new land-based Topol-M missiles and the prospective Bulava missiles for the Russian navy, now under development.
Russia opposed Washington's withdrawal in 2002 from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in order to deploy a national missile defense shield, saying the 30-year-old U.S.-Soviet pact was a key element of international security. Putin called the decision a mistake that would hurt global security but not threaten Russia. The ABM treaty banned missile defense systems on the assumption that the fear of retaliation would prevent each nation from launching a first strike _ a strategy known as mutually assured destruction.
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Russia would commission new early warning radars to replace those located in the former Soviet republics. The new radars will "provide an earlier warning on launches of all missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles as well as tactical and cruise missiles," Ivanov said, according to Russian news reports. The Russian military has used Soviet-built early warning radars located in Azerbaijan and Ukraine, and it has been involved in rent and other arguments over the issue. Ivanov said the commissioning of new radars will allow Russia to stop using them.
Anti-monopoly committee clears natural gas joint venture
The anti-monopoly committee has cleared the way for the creation of a joint venture between Naftohaz Ukrayiny and RosUkrEnergo.
Committee head Oleksiy Kostusyev made the announcement in Kyiv in Tuesday. The joint venture - that will supply Russian and Central Asian gas to Ukraine - was due to be created more than a week ago. The signing was put off by the Ukrainian side that said it needed more time to prepare necessary paperwork. The anti-monopoly committee ruled that the future Joint Venture will not limit competition on the domestic natural gas market. Naftohaz and RosUkrEnergo will each own a 50% stake in the new company, rumored to be called UkrHazEnerho. The may be created as soon as February 1st, according to officials.
Ukrainian Authorities Approve Gas Deal with Russia, Meat and Dairy War Goes On
Ukrainian anti-monopoly authorities have approved a five-year gas deal between national oil and gas company Naftagaz Ukraine and mysterious Gazprom subsidiary RosUkrEnergo. But as the two countries are getting ready to overcome the bitter gas dispute, a new trade war - in meat and dairy exports - is waging on.
Executives from Russia's gas company Gazprom arrived on Tuesday, Jan. 31, in the offices of Naftogaz Ukraine to sign a set of gas supply and transit contracts that would cement the controversial gas deal after RosUkr Energo, the Swiss-registered intermediary that plays a central role in the deal, cleared a crucial regulatory hurdle. Despite the approval given by the anti-monopoly authorities, no final agreement was reached by the sides on Tuesday and negotiations are set to continue on Wednesday, Feb. 1. Still, Russia and Ukraine have never been so close to overcoming their differences.
Ukraine and Russia agreed the gas deal on January 4, following bitter disputes and Russia shutting off gas deliveries to Ukraine, but the contracts bringing it into force could not be signed until RosUkrEnergo disclosed information on its ownership to Ukraine's anti-monopoly committee, which a spokesman for the committee said was received on Tuesday.
RosUkrEnergo management appeared on Ukrainian television on Monday, Jan. 30, to rebut long-running accusations from opposition politicians that the company was involved in corruption. The company also gave out preliminary financial results showing it made an estimated $700 million in profits last year, when it had a smaller role. Oleg Palchikov, one of RosUkrEnergo's two directors, said the company would be more active in combating what he said was a smear campaign inspired by rival gas traders. "We have corrected our vision, and we are going to provide more detailed information about every step our company takes in serious projects," he said, quoted by the British Financial Times. RosUkrEnergo has said it is owned half by Gaz-prom and half by the Austrian company Centragas Holding, but it has declined to identify Centragas's owners. Palchikov also denied claims by opposition politicians that RosUkrEnergo's owners had links to Semen Mogilevich, an alleged international crime boss who is on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's "most wanted" list.
But while the gas dispute is nearing completion, Moscow and Kiev find themselves engaged in another trade war - this time in meat and dairy products. Russian veterinary authorities halted import of meat and dairy products from Ukraine on Jan. 20 citing health reasons. The Ukrainian government has been seeking international support in this matter and it even turned to veterinary watchdog the International Epizootic Bureau for help. Ukraine's Foreign Minister, Boris Tarasyuk, said on Tuesday, Jan. 31, that the Russian government had refused to meet a Ukrainian delegation that had sought to resolve the crisis. "Political decisions were behind this behavior; otherwise you cannot explain it," he said. "A considerable part of the Russian political elite is in favor of retaining the domination of Ukraine in one or another form," Tarasyuk continued. "Many of them are of the opinion that Ukraine should follow Russia or should be together with Russia." - mosnews
Gazprom: relax we only want to own ANY UK GAS FIRMS
Gazprom says misunderstood over Centrica
Thu Feb 2, 2006 MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian gas giant Gazprom (GAZP.RTS: Quote, Profile, Research) said on Thursday that comments by its deputy general director, Alexander Shkuta, that it might bid for Centrica (CNA.L: Quote, Profile, Research) had been misinterpreted, Interfax reported.
"The words of Alexander Shkuta were misinterpreted. His answer was not about Centrica. He was talking about any possible energy asset in Britain," Interfax quoted a company spokesman as saying.
"At the moment Gazprom is studying the possibility of expanding into the British energy market. We are looking at all possible options. But no statements concerning Centrica have been made by representatives of (Gazprom export arm) Gazexport."
Interfax earlier quoted Shkuta as telling a conference call with analysts that the firm was considering buying the utility, but no decision had yet been taken, which sent Centrica's shares soaring. - Reuters
France, Germany join to Gas consortium
France, Germany could join Russian-Ukrainian gas consortium
KIEV, February 11 (RIA Novosti, Pavel Dulman) - France and Germany could join an international consortium for natural gas transport formed by Russia and Ukraine, the head of Ukraine's national energy company Naftogaz, Alexei Ivchenko, said Saturday.
According to Ukrainian TV Channel 5, France and Germany's participation was discussed at the consortium's recent meeting, attended by Russian Ambassador to Ukraine Viktor Chernomyrdin.
"We proposed that both the Germans and the French be invited to join. There were no objections from the Russian side," Ivchenko said.
The agreement on forming the international consortium for the management and development of Ukraine's gas transport system was signed by the Russian and Ukrainian prime ministers in October 2002. Russia is represented in the consortium by energy Gazprom, and Ukraine by Naftogaz.
The consortium is currently working on the Bogorodchany-Uzhgorod pipeline project that will enable Russia to increase its natural gas shipments to Europe by 19 billion cubic meters per year. Construction of the pipeline will begin in the first half of 2006. - en.rian.ru
Homophobia from the Mayor of Moscow & religioos leaders
Moscow Gay Pride banned as Religious groups threaten violence
IDAHO-UK | 17.02.2006 09:40 |
The Mayor of Moscow has banned Gay Pride from the city and religious leaders have denounced gays, including Moscow's Chief Mufti who called for violent attacks on gays while Chief Rabbi says gays have no right to exist.
Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov has announced that the city government will not allow a gay parade "in any form" and any attempt to hold a gay event will be "resolutely quashed"
The Mayor's dictat follows statements by the Russian Chief Mufti threatening violence if the Pride parade went ahead.
Chief Mufti of Russia's Central Spiritual Governance for Muslims Talgat Tajuddin said: "Muslims' protests can be even worse than these notorious rallies abroad over the scandalous cartoons," Chief Mufti of Russia's Central Spiritual Governance for Muslims Talgat Tajuddin said. "The parade should not be allowed, and if they still come out into the streets, then they should be bashed," he added. Tajuddin declared: "Sexual minorities have no rights, because they have crossed the line. Alternative sexuality is a crime against God." He then called on Russian Orthodox members to join Muslims in formulating a violent response to Moscow Pride.
Not to be left out, Russian Chief Rabbi Berl Lazar said that if a gay pride was allowed to go ahead it "would be a blow for morality". He stopped short of calling for violence, but the Jewish community would not stand by silently. "Sexual perversions", he said, did not have a right to exist. Lazar said that gay pride marches were "a provocation" similar to cartoon depictions of Mohammed.
Moscow Pride organiser, meanwhile, has said that attempts to prevent the march will be challenged with court action, if necessary, all the way to the European Court of human rights in Strasbourg.
Russian gay and lesbian activists announced in July that they would apply for a permit to hold pride celebrations in Moscow next May. If it is granted it would be the first pride parade ever held in the Russian capital. The projected date is May 27, 2006 — the anniversary of the abolition of Soviet laws against homosexuality in 1993.
Many well known gay rights campaigners from around the world will attend the first ever Gay Pride Parade in Russia, which coincides with the first International Day Against Homophobia conference. These include the British campaigners Michael Cashman MEP, Peter Tatchell of OutRage! and UK IDAHO co-ordinator Derek Lennard.
Also attending are the Deputy Mayor of Paris and several members of the European Council. Representatives from more than 30 countries will attend the Moscow International Gay Festival, which as well as Pride and the first IDAHO conference will include a series of talks by Mervin Holland, the grandson of Oscar Wilde, and a day of "Russian and Scandinavian homoculture".
Derek Lennard, UK Correspondent for the International Day Against Homophobia said "The first Pride in Moscow is of enormous and enormous importance particularly to the LGBT communities in the Baltic and Eastern European Countries. All those who are able to take the freedom to organise Pride for granted will surely want show their support for the LGBT community in Moscow"
Peter Tatchell said: "These attempts by the Russian state and religious leaders to suppress the right to protest are a throwback to the bad old days of czarist and communist totalitarianism. No amount of threats and intimidation by the Mayor of Moscow, the Chief Mufti or the Chief Rabbi will halt the gay freedom struggle in Russia. The right to sexual self-determination and the right to protest are fundamental human rights that every democratic humanitarian nation must respect."
The event is a week after the start of the Russian Presidency in the Council of Europe and just before the summit of G8 leaders in St Petersburg. President Putin has not commented on Pride or the threats of violence from religious leaders.
The international IDAHO website is www.idahomophobia.org - indymedia.org.uk
Russian anti-terror bill passes another hurdle
ISN SECURITY WATCH (Wednesday, 22 February: 14.30 CET) – The Russian State Duma, the country's lower house of parliament, has approved by an overwhelming majority the second ridding of a revised counter-terrorism bill, Russian news agencies reported.
The bill, approved in its second reading on Wednesday, defines restrictions that the Russian authorities may impose during counterterrorism operations and bans organizations "whose purposes and actions include the propaganda, justification, and support of terrorism", according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
The bill also grants the military permission to shoot down hijacked planes. The bill is scheduled for a final reading next week. If approved, it must then be passed by the upper house of parliament and signed by the president.
Earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree ordering the Kremlin to establish a national counter-terrorism committee to be headed by Federal Security Service (FSB) director Nikolai Patrushev.
The committee will be tasked with improving government regulation of the fight against terrorism and will include a new regional counter-terrorism commission to coordinate efforts with federal authorities.
The decree can be implemented once the new counter-terrorism law is passed. - .isn.ethz.ch
Energy Egotism Is a Road to Nowhere
Created: 28.02.2006 by Vladimir Putin - The Wall Street Journal [via Mosnews]
The establishment of a reliable and comprehensive system of energy security is one of the strategic goals for the G-8 -- of which Russia assumed the presidency in January -- and the world community as a whole. Today, energy is an engine of social and economic progress. This is why it directly affects the well-being of billions of people around the globe. During the Russian presidency of the G-8, not only will we seek to develop fundamental approaches to meeting current challenges in this field, but also outline our coordinated policy for the long term.
Today, the lack of stability in the hydrocarbon markets poses a real threat to global energy supply. In particular, the gap between supply and demand continues to widen. The apparent increase in energy consumption in Asian countries is caused not only by market fluctuations but also by a host of other factors related to policy and security. In order to stabilize the situation in this field, coordinated activities of the entire world community are needed.
The new policy of the leading countries should be based on the understanding that the globalization of the energy sector makes energy security indivisible. Our common future in the area of energy means common responsibilities, risks and benefits.
In our view, it is especially important to develop a strategy for achieving global energy security. It should be based on a long-term, reliable and environmentally sustainable energy supply at prices affordable to both the exporting countries and the consumers. In addition to reconciling the interests of stakeholders in global energy interaction, we will have to identify practical measures aimed at ensuring sustainable access for the world economy to traditional sources of energy, as well as promoting energy-saving programs and developing alternative energy sources.
A balanced and fair energy supply is undoubtedly a pillar of global security at present and in the years to come. We ought to pass on to the future generations a world energy architecture that would help avoid conflicts and counterproductive competition for energy security. This is why it is essential to find common approaches to creating a solid and long-term energy base for our civilization.
In this connection, Russia calls on the G-8 countries and the international community to focus their efforts on developing innovative technologies. This could serve as an initial step in creating a technological basis for mankind's energy supply in the future, when the energy potential in its present form is exhausted.
Global energy security will also benefit from an integrated approach to enhancing the energy efficiency of social and economic development. The G-8 made important progress toward elaborating this last year at Gleneagles, including, in particular, the adoption of a Plan of Action aimed at promoting innovation, energy saving and environmental protection. We find it crucially important to engage non-G-8 countries -- especially fast-growing and industrializing economies -- in G-8 initiatives and, particularly, in implementing the document adopted at Gleneagles.
The way most people see it, energy security has mainly to do with the interests of industrially developed countries. It should be kept in mind, however, that almost two billion people in today's world do not enjoy modern-day energy services, while many lack access even to electricity. Their access to many benefits and advances of civilization has been virtually blocked.
Needless to say, energy alone would not solve the poverty problem. At the same time, lack of energy resources throughout different regions significantly hinders economic growth, while their unsustainable use may result in an ecological disaster on a global rather than local scale.
Lately, experts have been actively discussing ways of increasing energy use in developing countries through a more intensive development of unconventional energy sources. And this is where assistance rendered by the G-8 in developing and introducing alternative power facilities becomes so important.
Generally speaking, all of us should recognize and admit that "energy egotism" in a modern and highly interdependent world is a road to nowhere. Therefore, Russia's attitude toward energy security remains clear and unchanged. It is our strong belief that energy redistribution guided wholly by the priorities of a small group of the most-developed countries does not serve the goals and purposes of global development. We will strive to create an energy security system sensitive to the interests of the whole international community. Basically, all it takes is for mankind to create a balanced potential in order to provide every state with sustainable energy supply, and international cooperation opens all avenues for that. Russia is ready to contribute actively to further progress in this direction.
Ex-Putin aide says G8 appeasing Russia
By Arkady Ostrovsky in Moscow and Neil Buckley in Minsk
Published: March 19 2006
Western countries have adopted a policy of appeasement towards Russia by endorsing it as president of the Group of Eight developed democracies, according to Andrei Illarionov, a former economics adviser to President Vladimir Putin.
Mr Illarionov said that by attending a G8 summit in St Petersburg this July, Group of Seven members would endorse fully Moscow's policy of "nationalisation of private property, destruction of the rule of law, violation of human rights and liquidation of democracy".
Mr Illarionov, one of the most outspoken critics of Mr Putin's rule even before he quit the Kremlin last year, said Russia did not qualify as a G8 member on either economic or political grounds.
Russia's gross domestic product per capita was less than one third that of the G7 and last year it was downgraded by the US-based Freedom House from a partially free country to a status of not-free country. "The St Petersburg summit will be a triumph for dictators around the world and a signal to them that what they do to their people and neighbours does not matter," Mr Illarionov said at a recent meeting with journalists.
His criticism came as José Manuel Barroso, European Commission president, became the latest foreign politician to urge Mr Putin to uphold democracy in his country.
"We would like to be sure that the transition in Russia...is a transition to a democracy and not a transition to some sort of half-democracy," Mr Barroso said after meeting Mr Putin on Friday night.
Mr Illarionov's comments came as it emerged the largest foreign investor in Russia's stock market had been barred from the country for the past four months over "national security concerns".
Bill Browder, chief executive of Hermitage Capital, which runs an equity fund with $4.1bn under management in Russia, was turned away at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport in November and has not been readmitted. Mr Browder, a US-born British citizen, had been one of the most enthusiastic supporters of Mr Putin's policies and of Russia as an investment destination. The Kremlin even reprinted copies of one of his presentations, "How the west has got Russia wrong", and circulated it to Russian embassies.
But he has also campaigned energetically for improved corporate governance, most noticeably at Gazprom, the state-controlled natural gas giant, which has made him powerful enemies. Russia's foreign ministry said Mr Browder had been barred under a law permitting such action "if it is in the interest of ensuring the security of the state". - Financial Times
Putin signs energy cooperation deals with China
By Richard McGregor and Andrew Yeh in Beijing - March 20 2006
Vladimir Putin, Russia's president, arrived in China on Tuesday for a visit that Beijing hopes will secure it a decisive advantage over Japan in their lengthy battle to secure the route of an oil pipeline from east Siberia.
The two leaders inked several agreements, the most important of which focus on long-term energy cooperation in oil and natural gas.
"Current Russia-China relations have reached a high level," Mr Putin, accompanied by dozens of top energy officials and executives, told Hu Jintao, the Chinese president.
Of the documents signed on Tuesday, China National Petroleum Corp was involved in three – one with Russia's state-owned oil giant Rosneft to form a joint venture, another with Russia's Gazprom, the state-controlled natural gas giant, to guarantee gas supplies, and a third with Transneft, the Russian pipeline transport firm – according to the Xinhua news agency.
Alexei Miller, Gazprom's top executive, said his company would supply China with 60bn-80bn cubic metres of gas annually through new pipelines in about five years, Reuters reported.
The accords were finalised amid growing frustration among some Chinese officials over the failure to reach concrete deals, and worries that Russia has been wavering in its commitment to specific projects.
China's dependence on Russian energy is nonetheless likely to grow in the years ahead, and will jump if any of the agreements signed on Tuesday on oil and gas come to fruition.
The gas deals, in particular, face obstacles. China's domestic price controls keep the costs of the resource to consumer and industry far lower than global benchmarks, making sales of Russian gas at the moment uneconomic.
Sino-Russian economic ties have been expanding, despite difficulties over some key deals, with total bilateral trade volume reaching $29.1bn (€24bn, £16.6bn) last year, a year-on-year increase of 37 per cent.
Officials on both sides have for months been locked in talks over a proposed Russian oil pipeline, as competing routes are being pushed by Beijing and Tokyo.
China sees that pipeline as a potentially valuable source of future oil supply and is lobbying for it to extend into its northern oil heartland, while Japan wants to it to reach the western Pacific coast.
Senior Chinese officials, including vice-minister Zhang Guobao of the National Development and Reform Commission, which is in charge of energy policy, have reportedly been confounded by Russia's back-and-forth attitude on the pipeline.
Moscow has its own worries. Mr Putin expressed concerns in a recent Xinhua interview over falling Russian machinery exports to China.
"Efforts should be made to promote Russia's export of machinery to China, particularly products of Russia with an absolute competitive edge," Mr Putin said. He singled out Russian equipment used for power generation and mining as examples of such exports. - FT.com
China, Russia united on Iran
By Lindsay Beck Tue Mar 21, BEIJING (Reuters) - China and Russia are united in pushing for more diplomacy to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue, China said on Tuesday, a day after the two deflected Western moves to authorize U.N. Security Council threats against Iran.
After more than two weeks of discussions, the five veto-wielding members of the Security Council -- China, Russia, the United States, Britain and France -- have been unable to agree on a draft statement that tells Iran to stop enriching uranium.
"China and Russia have common views on how to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue," China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a regular news conference. "Our objectives are to solve the issue in a peaceful way through negotiations," he said, as Chinese President Hu Jintao and Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks in Beijing.
Iran insists it has the right to atomic research -- which it says is for peaceful purposes -- but the Western powers believe it is seeking the ability to make nuclear weapons.
Qin said China supported a Russian compromise proposal that would allow Iran to use nuclear fuel enriched in an internationally monitored plant on Russian soil, easing fears that Tehran could divert atomic material to develop weapons. "Under current circumstances, Russia's proposal is a helpful way to break the impasse," Qin said. "We call on all parties concerned to step up their negotiations and demonstrate flexibility."
Both Russia and China are wary of action by the Security Council, which can impose sanctions, fearing threats might escalate and prompt Iran to cut off contact with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna.
Envoys close to the talks on the draft statement said Russia, backed by China, was toughest on its provisions, objecting to its setting a two-week deadline for the IAEA to report whether Tehran has complied, saying the time limit is too short.
But underscoring the urgency to reach a resolution, U.S. President George W. Bush reiterated that Washington was ready to use military force against Iran if necessary. "The threat from Iran is, of course, their stated objective to destroy our strong ally Israel," he said in a speech to the City Club of Cleveland. "That's a threat, a serious threat. It's a threat to world peace... I made it clear, I'll make it clear again, that we will use military might to protect our ally, Israel." Bush also stressed the desire for a united message on Iran from the Security Council "in order to say loud and clear to the Iranians this is unacceptable behavior."
The full 15-member council consults later on Tuesday. Under a November 2004 agreement with Britain, France and Germany, negotiators for the European Union, Iran agreed to freeze uranium enrichment activities in return for economic and political rewards. That deal broke down last year, and Iran resumed uranium conversion in August. - Yahoo News
Russia Abandons Policy Of Maintaing Military Parity With US
The Russian army has only 1,134,000 soldiers whilst NATO has 4 million.
by Staff Writers Moscow (AFP) Apr 04, 2006
The Russian armed forces chief of staff said Monday that Russia had given up on military parity with the United States but would retain "sufficient deterrent force" to guarantee its safety.
"We won't be pulling in our belts to have parity with the United States or with NATO. That is just not realistic," General Yuri Baluyevsky said at a press conference in Moscow to launch a new report on the Russia's armed forces. "NATO has four million men in its armed forces. The Russian army is made up of 1,134,000 soldiers. It's clear enough," he added. "We have no intention of going to war with NATO. That is in the past, although Russia will still maintain enough of a deterrent to ensure anyone thinking about invading its borders and seizing its rich natural resources will think again."
Baluyevsky also said it was the "sovereign right" of Ukraine, which has weapons manufacturing deals with Russia, to join NATO. "Having said that 70 percent of the population of Ukraine say they are against joining NATO," he said.
Baluyevski told journalists at the press conference Russia was not dependent on Ukraine's factories for its missiles production.
Russians protest against govt media stranglehold
Monday, April 17, 2006 - MOSCOW: A thousand people protested in Moscow on Sunday against the government's clampdown on independent media, five years after the Kremlin effectively took control of private channel NTV.
The protestors, who included well-known television reporters who have lost their jobs, brandished placards reading "Today censorship, tomorrow dictatorship" and "Down with Kremlin-TV". "I have had enough of the lies on television. The government thinks it is king and we are its slaves," Vera Valkovskaia, a housewife holding her small son on her shoulders, told AFP. "I have lived in the Soviet Union, but this is enough, I don't want to anymore," she added.
Viktor Chenderovitch, a writer and former NTV presenter, said "Russia has changed a lot" since the oil giant Gazprom, in which the Russian government is the main shareholder, bought NTV in 2001. "I hope that the Russian flag will once again symbolise a democratic country and not a KGB colonel," he said, referring to President Vladimir Putin's former role in the secret service. He said the state's stranglehold on television was preventing the emergence of a strong opposition and an independent justice system. A former presenter at Ren-TV who was fired after complaining about censorship at the channel, said television news channels had become government mouthpieces. afp
Belarus Riot Police, Protesters Clash
Riot Police Clash With Protesters in Belarusian Capital; Opposition Leader Denies He Was Detained
MINSK, Belarus Mar 25, 2006 (AP)- Riot police clashed with protesters in the Belarusian capital Saturday, forcing demonstrators back and hitting several with truncheons. Four explosions were heard, apparently percussion grenades set off by police.
Many protesters were detained, including one of the opposition leaders, Alexander Kozulin, Russian news agencies reported, but the main opposition leader, Alexander Milinkevich, denied media reports that he himself was detained. - ABC News
Russia, Belarus to discuss joint military exercises April 21
MOSCOW, April 17 (RIA Novosti) - Russian and Belarusian defense officials will hold talks April 21 on holding joint military exercises in June of this year, the defense minister said Monday.
Sergei Ivanov said the exercises would form part of the two countries' plans to create combined air-defense systems.
He said the exercises would be held under the auspices of Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) - a regional security body that also includes the former Soviet republics of Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan - but would involve only Russian and Belarusian troops.
The CSTO was founded in 2002 to ensure peace in the post-Soviet space and preserve member-countries' territorial integrity, as well as to fight terrorism, drug traffic, and international organized crime. Some experts say the organization was created to prevent NATO's further eastward expansion and keep some former Soviet republics under Russia's military protection.
Putin signs law to strip FSB of detention centers
MOSCOW, April 17 (RIA Novosti) - President Vladimir Putin has signed a law depriving the Federal Security Service (FSB) of its pretrial detention centers, the Kremlin press service said Monday.
The law follows up on a presidential decree making FSB detention centers part of the country's penitentiary system, administered by the Justice Ministry.
"The law now prohibits the use of these detention centers for holding individuals accused or suspected of committing crimes whose investigation falls within the purview of FSB agencies," lawmaker Issa Kostoyev said after the Federation Council, or upper house of parliament, approved amendments to the law in early April.
The move is designed to ensure the rights, freedoms and legitimate interests of suspects and prisoners in line with recommendations from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
The FSB has several detention centers in Russia, including the Lefortovo detention center in Moscow.
Justice Minister Yury Chaika last year told Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Alvaro Gil-Robles of the impending change.
"Russia will thereby fulfill one of the obligations that it assumed before joining the Council of Europe in 1996," he said.
World Bank Urges Russia to Invest Oil Money Into Foreign Shares
The World Bank has urged Russia to invest billions of dollars the country received from its oil exports into foreign companies' shares.
The bank's chief economist for Russia, John Litwack, quoted by AP said Russia's Stabilization Fund would clock in at a healthy $2.3 trillion dollars come 2030, if it was invested properly and left untouched. The fund receives nearly every dollar of oil companies' profits over $27 per barrel. It currently stands at more than $55 billion.
Litwack suggested that the fund could eventually act as a safety net for the government's efforts to shift the economy away from its vulnerable dependence on oil and gas exports as well as insuring the country against any sudden drop in prices.
"One of points we stress is that if they can take the money and invest it in a well managed portfolio of foreign assets ... and prices stay high - they'll be able to accumulate such a large resource that just the income would be a huge cushion against oil price shocks," Litwack said.
The bank's latest report on the Russian economy featured an economic model for the stabilization fund that assumed oil prices would fall gradually to $40 by 2030 and that the government also wouldn't touch the cash pile for about 24 years. In that case the fund could be worth $2.3 trillion, with the return alone equivalent to 17 percent of gross domestic product, or about $800 billion, he said.
Litwack said that would give the Russian government the confidence to undertake bold steps to diversify the economy, including tax cuts in the non-oil sector, which would initially have the effect of making the country more reliant on the oil price and the taxes oil companies pay.
Two Gypsies shot as Russian race attacks continue
Tom Parfitt in Moscow - Tuesday April 18, 2006 - The Guardian
Police in Russia are investigating the murder of two Gypsies in the latest of a spate of violent attacks on foreigners and people from ethnic minorities.
The two brothers, aged 26 and 27, were shot dead in Kuznetsovka in the northwest of the country by an attacker with a hunting rifle. A 23-year-old suspect has been arrested, but police said there was no evidence that the attack on Sunday was race related.
Last week a gang of young men attacked a Gypsy camp in the southern Volgograd region, beating to death a man and a woman and seriously injuring a 14-year-old girl and an 80-year-old woman. Nine suspects are being questioned.
On Saturday, two Mongolian students were taken to hospital after a group of young men attacked them in St Petersburg. A Senegalese student was shot dead in the city this month by an assailant using a gun emblazoned with a swastika.
Critics yesterday blamed the Kremlin. "The Russian authorities are not eloquent or explicit enough in expressing themselves or in the pursuit of a policy of curbing nationalism and xenophobia," the veteran liberal politician Grigory Yavlinksy told reporters. "They are trying to play down the situation. That is wrong and very dangerous."
Police have been accused of charging many perpetrators of attacks on dark-skinned people with hooliganism, rather than race crimes, which carry higher sentences. Last year a political party was banned from local elections in Moscow after a campaign broadcast that equated dark-skinned immigrants with rubbish that needed to be cleaned from the city.
Gypsies are frequently the target of ultra-nationalist sentiment. A Roma man was abducted and killed in Pskov in western Russia in September, and an eight-year-old girl died in an arson attack on her home near Novosibirsk in December.
Ethnic minorities such as Chechens from the North Caucasus region, as well as immigrants from central Asia and students from African countries are also singled out for attack. A conference of human rights activists in St Petersburg yesterday recommended establishing a national "anti-nazism" centre partly dedicated to combating racist violence. - guardian.co.uk/
Gazprom warns EU to let it grow
20th April 2006- BBC
Gazprom, one of the main suppliers of natural gas to Europe, has warned that blocking its plans to expand across the region will "not produce good results". The Russian company has recently indicated it wants to expand European operations, with speculation centred on a possible bid for the UK's Centrica. Energy security is a hot political topic and there are concerns Europe is too dependent on Russian supplies. Gazprom, the world's biggest gas producer, wants to be a global player. Company boss Alexi Miller explained that competition has been intensifying for energy resources and Gazprom could turn to other markets including China.
"Attempts to limit Gazprom's activities in the European market and to politicise questions of gas supplies, which are in fact entirely within the economic sphere, will not produce good results," Mr Miller said after his meeting on Wednesday.
(Gazprom comments) give grounds to our concerns on the growing foreign dependency of European energy supply
Ferran Tarradellas Espuny, EU Energy spokesman
"It should not be forgotten that we are actively seeking new markets such as North America and China," he added. "It's no coincidence that competition for energy resources is growing."
Mr Miller's comments came after he met European Union ambassadors on Tuesday.
Ferran Tarradellas Espuny, spokesman for Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, said that Mr Miller's statement "gives grounds to our concerns on the growing foreign dependency of European energy supply".
He added that the EU had a "need to diversify both the origin of our supplies and our supply routes".
For many observers, the biggest worry is that consumer and wholesale prices will continue to climb, and that governments will have to make political concessions to ensure a steady supply of gas.
This problem is seen as becoming more acute in the UK as supplies from North Sea operations dwindle.
Gazprom appears to be concerned that the UK would block Gazprom's attempts to buy the UK's largest gas company. Centrica owns British Gas and is the UK's largest utility firm with more than 17 million electricity and gas customers. Shares in Centrica have been surrounded by speculation that the Russian firm was planning a takeover approach, prompting the UK government to say it would scrutinise any such move.
Last month, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said the security of the UK's energy supply was paramount and recent press reports stated that it trying to find out if it had the legal means with which to block a takeover.
In an effort to soften his comments and ally any concerns that gas supplies may dry up, Mr Miller said that the company understood its responsibilities as the provider of 25% of Europe's gas and would honour existing contracts.
Russian bombers flew undetected across Arctic - AF commander
RIA Novosti - MOSCOW, April 22 (RIA Novosti) - Russian military planes flew undetected through the U.S. zone of the Arctic Ocean to Canada during recent military exercises, a senior Air Force commander said Saturday.
The commander of the country's long-range strategic bombers, Lieutenant General Igor Khvorov, said the U.S. Air Force is now investigating why its military was unable to detect the Russian bombers.
"They were unable to detect the planes either with radars or visually," he said.
Khorov said that during the military exercises in April, Tu-160 Blackjack bombers and Tu-95 Bears had successfully carried out four missile launches. Bombing exercises were held using Tu-22 Blinders.
By the end of the year, two more Tu-160s will be commissioned for the long-range strategic bomber fleet, Khorov said.
Both new planes will incorporate numerous upgrades from the initial Soviet models, the commander said. The bombers will be able to launch both cruise missiles and aviation bombs, and communicate via satellite. - globalsecurity.org
Russia deploys advanced anti-missile systems near NATO's eastern borders
Moscow warns against stationing Alliance troops in the Baltics
MOSCOW: Russia has begun deploying advanced air defence systems in Belarus near NATO's eastern borders in response to the continuing expansion of the Atlantic alliance to the east.
The first batch of S-300PS mobile surface-to-air missiles arrived in Belarus over the weekend, the Russian Defence Ministry's newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda reported. Russia will supply a total of four S-300PS batteries consisting of 24 missile launchers.
According to Russia's Deputy Air Force Commander Aytech Bizhev, the deployment will extend the effective range of Russia's western air defence by 150 km and the detection of air targets by 400 km. The S-300PS is an all-altitude air defence missile capable of shooting down aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles at a range of 90 km.
Joint command planned
Belarus is Russia's closest ally in the former Soviet Union. The two countries are planning to introduce a common currency and set up a joint defence command. Last month, Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko, branded by the U.S. as "Europe's last dictator," won a third presidential term in an election denounced by the West as neither free nor fair.
Russia's Air Force Commander Vladimir Mikhailov described the deployment of S-300PS missiles as an "adequate response" to the admission of Poland and the former Soviet Baltic republics into NATO. Belarus shares borders with Poland, Luthuania and Latvia.
Russia is also concerned with U.S. plans to set up military bases in the former Warsaw Pact countries of Bulgaria and Romania, and deploy anti-missile systems in Poland and other East European states.
Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov warned that Moscow would view any deployment of NATO military forces in Poland and the Baltic countries as a violation of earlier agreements.
"Such redeployment could run counter to NATO commitment [under the 1997 Russia-NATO pact] to exercise restraint in deploying conventional forces," he said in an interview this week. "In the event of a clear violation of the balance of forces near our borders, we reserve the lawful right to take all necessary measures to ensure the reliability of our national security."
Kremlin hires PR group to improve G8 image
By Neil Buckley in Moscow Published: April 30 2006 - FT.com
The Kremlin, not renowned as one of the world's most media-savvy organisations, is signing up western public relations advisers for the first time to improve the presentation of Russia's presidency of the Group of Eight leading nations.
Russia's presidential administration has signed a multi-million dollar contract with Ketchum, a US-based PR firm, to advise on communications with western media during its G8 term, which started on January 1 and lasts for 12 months, as well as the St Petersburg summit in July. The contract is a coup for Ketchum, which adds the Kremlin to clients including IBM, Kodak, FedEx and the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Work will be co-ordinated by Ketchum's Washington DC office, and a sister company, GPlus Europe, a Brussels-based public affairs group founded by Peter Guilford and Nigel Gardner, two former European Commission trade spokesmen. They face a unique PR challenge in trying to win recognition of Russia's G8 work amid growing international suspicion of its record on democracy under Vladimir Putin, president, and of how it plans to use its oil and gas might.
Moscow's G8 presidency has been marred by the decision by Gazprom, the state-controlled natural gas giant, to cut off supplies to Ukraine in a pricing dispute on January 1, undermining Russia's decision to make energy security a top G8 theme. It has also faced calls from John McCain, US senator, for member countries to boycott the St Petersburg summit over Russia's authoritarian tendencies.
Dmitry Peskov, deputy press attaché to Mr Putin, said the decision to hire international advisers had been taken last year. He denied that the presidency had got off to a bad start."Russia's presidency started well and continues to go very successfully. All our partners recognise that," Mr Peskov said. "But it didn't get off to a good start on the communications front. And this is connected with the misinterpretation [in the west] of what happened with Gazprom and Ukraine. "We set out our point of view, but apparently it wasn't that effective. Perhaps if we had already been working then with some kind of communications company things would have been different."
Mr Peskov said Mr Putin had approved the decision, but it had taken time to persuade all the necessary Kremlin officials. Observers said they did not expect to transform overnight western media coverage that Moscow believes is often excessively negative. However, the Kremlin does want to gain credit, where due, for the handling of its presidency and summit.
Poland furore over Russia, Germany, pipeline
Big News Network.com Monday 1st May, 2006
Poland's defense minister has condemned an agreement forged by Germany and Russia to build a gas pipeline beneath the Baltic Sea that bypasses Poland.
Radek Sikorski expressed concern in Brussels Sunday that a new undersea pipeline would allow Russia to cut off energy supplies to Poland and Belarus without disrupting deliveries to western Europe.
The Polish defense minister says the deal raises questions about Germany's commitment to European Union security and foreign policies. Sikorski said the plan revives memories of the infamous Nazi-Soviet pact in 1939 that divided Polish territory between Nazi Germany and Josef Stalin's Soviet Union.
Despite Poland's objections, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has refused to abandon the pipeline project, which was negotiated by her predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder.
[my note Shroeder now works as a Gazprom mediator]
Sikorski says building a pipeline beneath Baltic Sea would be far more expensive than modernizing the existing pipeline across Poland.
Ms. Merkel took part in a business forum in Siberia last week, where Russian President Vladmir Putin shrugged off concerns about Russia's political use of its energy.
Russia's Gazprom eyes British Gas
Story from BBC NEWS - Published: 2006/04/26 09:40:20 GMT
Russian gas giant Gazprom is eyeing British Gas owner Centrica as a potential takeover target.
The monopoly admitted Centrica was a "potential acquisition" in an interview with BBC World news.
The possibility of a deal has raised fears over the security of gas supplies in the UK.
The admission came as a Financial Times report said the UK Government had ruled out blocking any potential bid for Centrica from the Russian group.
In an interview with BBC World, the deputy chairman of the Gazprom board, Alexander Medvedev, admitted Centrica was on its list of potential takeover targets.
"Centrica is considered as one of our potential acquisitions but it's very difficult to find a company that is not on our watch list," he said. He added the group was planning to transform itself from a gas supplier to a "leading energy company" by taking up stakes in European power stations. "The role of Russian gas will grow, we have enough reserves to supply gas to Europe, the US, China and Korea."
According to the FT, Prime Minister Tony Blair has ruled out the possibility of vetoing any bid for Centrica from the Russian firm as he believes the government must stick to its commitment to open up European markets.
"Whatever the difficulties and challenges of globalisation, the answers will not be found in the stagnant waters of protectionism," the paper quoted Trade Minister Alan Johnson as saying.
Instead the UK's independent competition authorities would look into any such bid a spokesman for the prime minister said.
In February, the UK government said any Gazprom bid would come under "robust scrutiny" following reports it was considering a bid for Centrica. At the time the government said that the security of UK gas supplies was "paramount".
The Russian firm is estimated to control about a third of the world's gas reserves and supplies almost a quarter of Europe's gas. In January it sparked a political storm when it cut supplies to Ukraine in a row over prices. The stoppage had a knock-on effect, hitting supplies to other European countries further down its pipeline.
BASF and Gazprom seal gas deal
BBC 2006/04/27 -
Chemicals giant BASF has sealed a gas deal with Russia, following trade talks this week between Germany and Russia.
The chemical firm has acquired 35% of a natural gas field in Russia from the nation's state-owned company Gazprom.
The deal "contributes to the further development of a stable and reliable partnership" between the two firms said BASF chief executive Juergen Hambrecht.
The move comes as Russian President Putin and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel are meeting in Siberia.
Expansion outside Europe
"This is the first time in contemporary history that Russia has allowed a foreign partner into gas production on a gigantic field, which will be exploited for decades," said Mr Putin.
Germany is Russia's largest trading partner. Total trade between the two nations added up to $50bn (£28bn) in 2005.
The deal means that BASF's Wintershall unit would acquire 35% minus one share in Severneftegazprom (SNGP), the company that owns the licence to develop the Yuzhno-Russkoye gas field in western Siberia. Meanwhile Wintershall will acquire 25% minus one voting share in SNGP, in addition to a further 10% share without voting rights.
For its part Gazprom will up its share in Wingas - its joint venture with BASF's Wintershall unit - from 35% to 50% less one share. Subsequently Wingas will concentrate on selling and marketing natural gas in Germany.
Together Gazprom and BASF will both take 50% shares in Wingas Europe - a joint venture that will concentrate on distributing gas outside Germany.
German utility E.On had been expected to be the third player in the deal with BASF and Gazprom. But Gazprom said it was not yet in a position to sign a similar deal for the same western Siberian gas filed at this stage.
A deal however could still be signed, Gazprom's export chief Alexander Medvedev told Russian news agencies, Reuters reported.
A day before, President Putin had urged Russia to gain access to other energy markets in Asia, arguing that other countries had tried to prevent it from expanding. This echoed calls by Gazprom and Transneft that Russia needed to increase its reach into other markets outside Europe.
Mr Putin however tried to send a reassuring message to Europeans by arguing that Russia is committed to stable gas prices.
At the end of last year Gazprom temporarily cut off gas supplies to Ukraine over a payment dispute, causing concern throughout Europe.
Fear & Ignorance...in a police state:
Moscow pride - an eye witness account
28-May-2006 Comment by Peter Tatchell - pinknews.co.uk
The human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell of gay rights group OutRage! offers his own personal account of the Moscow gay pride march.
The Mayor of Moscow said gay pride would never happen while he was alive. He mobilised a quarter of the Moscow police, over 1,000 officers, to prevent the gay parade. Despite all his efforts, lesbian and gay Russians - and their international supporters - gathered by the Kremlin in Manezhnaya Square.
We were immediately set-upon by about 100 fascist thugs and religious fanatics who began pushing, punching and kicking us.
They snatched flowers out of our hands and abused us with chants of 'No sodomy in Moscow' and 'Put the pederasts on the iron' and 'Russia is not Sodom'. We were pushed and carried like corks on a sea of fascist pushing and shoving.
Russian gay leader Nikolai Alekseev was arrested and put in a police van. The rest of us were forced out of Manezhnaya Square by lines of militia and police. Some individual protesters were surrounded, abused and attacked by gangs of fascists.
Most of us re-assembled on the edge of Manezhnaya Square. Groups of roaming neo-Nazis stormed around the square looks for gays and lesbians to attack. We had to look inconspicuous to avoid being beaten.
Then, some of the fascists threw tear gas cannisters and formed a line with the police to block our exit from Manezhnaya Square. A group of about 15 of us assembled and left by a different exit.
We then made our way through the back streets to the Yuri Dolgoruky monument where Moscow Gay Pride was due to reassemble and cross the road to city hall, where we were going to stage our protest for gay rights and against the the Mayor's ban.
At the monument we met up with anther 20 LGBT protesters. They had been attacked by fascists, but by the time we arrived the helmeted riot police had pushed them back into the Tverskaya Street.
Soon after reassembling at the monument, another line of riot police came and drove us out of the square, straight into an oncoming posse of fascists.
Fortunately, we were all in ones and twos - and they didn't recognise us. Most of us got split up, but 15 of us managed to reassemble at the nearby Bar Gogol.
This first Moscow Pride took place, but not as we had planned it -thanks to the combined opposition of Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and the neo-Nazis. The Mayor's homophobia created the atmosphere which gave a green light to the fascists to attack the Moscow Pride participants.
The anti-gay violence and intimidation we experienced shows precisely why Moscow Pride is necessary.
The repression of a handful of lesbian and gay protesters signifies the fear and weakness of the Russian state. We had a moral and political victory, forcing the Moscow authorities to unleash forces of repression comparable with the bad old days of the Soviet era.
It is a back-handed compliment that the Moscow Mayor regards gay people as such a threat that we have to be banned and suppressed.
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