|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Russia Suspends CFE Treaty
May 4 (EIRNS)Implementing the measure President Vladimir Putin announced April 26 in his annual Message to the Federal Assembly, in response to U.S. plans to station missile defense systems in Europe's east, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov announced May 3 that the treaty on reduction of Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) has been suspended. "We declare a moratorium, and we will not inform anyone about movement of troops across our own territory," he said, according to a report by the Interfax news agency. Ivanov added that the moratorium will last until all NATO countries have ratified the 1990 treaty in its 1999 revised form.
Russian Nuclear Power Corporation Created
April 30 (EIRNS)President Putin signed a decree April 27 to create a state-owned nuclear power corporation called Atomenergoprom. This new holding company, under development by Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) head Sergei Kiriyenko for some months, was featured in Putin's April 26 Message to the Federal Assembly, as being essential for launching what he called "the second great electrification of the country."
Itar-Tass reported that Atomenergoprom will be operational by January 2008. It will be a wholly government-owned joint stock company. Some 55 entities will be corporatized and brought under the holding company by Dec. 1, and a list of the joint stock companies registered by July 1. Itar-Tass cited a source at Rosatom, who said that this "holding company will incorporate all enterprises and companies, which produce atomic energy machinery, build and operate nuclear power plants, produce and enrich uranium, and make nuclear fuel."
The new entity, according to Kommersant, will be directly responsible to the President of Russia, who will appoint the board of directors. Kommersant also reported that a state-run national corporation for nanotechnology will be set up along the same lines. On April 18, Putin had addressed the Kurchatov Institute on the importance of nanotechnology research.
First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov told the April 28 constituent congress of the Union of Russian Machine Builders, Russian news agencies reported, that in strategic sectors like the nuclear industry and missile production, "Control over holding companies will always remain in the hands of the state, as happens all over the world; the rest is 100% open to private capital, above all Russian." He also said that the future of machine-building lies in "large integrated structures with a complete production cycle, from the manufacture of key components to the output of finished products," adding that "it will be much easier for powerful companies to compete with foreign companies," especially if Russia joins the WTO.
Siberian Official: Transport Corridors a Strategic Must
May 1 (EIRNS)Following up the April 24 conference held in Moscow, "Megaprojects of Russia's East: Intercontinental Eurasia-America Transport Link via the Bering Strait," First Deputy Chairman of the government of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) Gennadi Alexeyev gave an interview that day to Konstantin Kirillov of FK-Novosti. It was also published April 28 on the Sakha News portal, under the headline, "Construction of a Rail Line from Yakutsk to Uelen Is a Strategic Project of Federal Significance." Uelen is a village of 500 people on the Chukotka side of the Bering Strait.
"Without transport connections," Alexeyev said, "there will be no social and economic development of Russia's Northeast." He explained that transport accounts for 70-80% of the cost of production of goods and services in Yakutia, as against a national average of 25%.
Construction of a railroad line from Yakutsk to the Bering Strait, with a spur to Magadan, "should be viewed as a strategic project of Federal significance," Alexeyev said. "This railroad will make it possible to develop the natural resources of a huge area of Northeast Russia, which are currently cut off from their markets." These include gold, polymetals, gold-antimony deposits in the Adycha-Tarynsk zone, and copper-tungsten deposits in Agylky. Yakutia also has platinum, graphite, apatite, uranium, tin, phlogopite, rock crystal, precious stones, and raw materials for the construction industry. Likely hydrocarbon and iron ore deposits remain to be prospected.
Because of the huge distances in Yakutia, with its three time zones, and in the rest of Russia's East, Alexeyev said that, "the only efficient approach will be to build mainlines in a single transportation corridor. This principle is beginning to be implemented in Yakutia now. In particular, the VSTO [East Siberia-Pacific Ocean] pipeline is now under construction in southwest Yakutia, as is the Vilyuy highway, which has been given federal status, and which will link Yakutia and Irkutsk region, simultaneously serving as a road along the pipeline route, for developing the oil and gas fields.
"There's no question but that in the same corridor there will be a gas mainline, a major electricity transmission line, tying in the Vilyuysk Cascades Hydroelectric Station and the Irkutskenergo Hydroelectric Station, and a railroad from the Lena Station (port of Osetrovo, city of Ust-Kut) to the city of Lensk."
Echoing Dmitri Mendeleyev's famous remark about the civilizing effects of railroad construction, Alexeyev pointed out the catalytic role of infrastructure in society: "It was shown during the experience of building the South Yakutsk Coal Complex, that the construction of major transportation lines, especially railroads, leads to rapid growth of industry in a region, and to its social and economic development.
Putin Visits Murmansk
May 2 (EIRNS)A session of Russia's State Council Presidium, together with the Naval Board, was held in the northern port city of Murmansk May 2, with President Putin presiding. On the agenda was a topic emphasized during Putin's April 26 Message to the Federal Assembly, namely, how to speed up the restoration and development of Russia's port and naval transport infrastructure, Itar-Tass reported.
The meeting took place on board the icebreaker 50 Years Since Victory in the Kola Bay by Murmansk, in northwestern Russia near its border with Norway and Finland. Murmansk was one of the key ports used for transport of U.S. Lend Lease goods to supply the Soviet Red Army during World War II. The State Council presidium is made up of governors of Russian territories on a rotating basis.
The Russian Naval Board, created in September 2001, had as its predecessor the Admiralty Board created in 1718 by Peter the Great. Putin's itinerary included reviewing the port facilities at Kola Bay, as well as a meeting with Murmansk region governor Yuri Yevdokimov. The governor of Primorsky Territory, in Russia's Far East, Sergei Darkin, was scheduled to present proposals for developing naval infrastructure, according to the Vladivostok Times.
Turkmenistan and Russia Affirm Gas Export Cooperation
April 28 (EIRNS)The new President of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, visited Moscow April 23-24, and agreed to expand cooperation in the gas sphere. As RIA Novosti reported, "Moscow sought to secure guarantees on gas deals signed under his predecessor, and to counter attempts by the U.S. and its allies to reroute some of the Central Asian state's gas exports away from Russia."
Berdymukhammedov urged the government in a cabinet meeting to ensure effective implementation of the agreements. President Vladimir Putin said earlier, that Russia "had launched a new leg of the gas pipeline system along the Caspian Sea and was currently pumping more than 5 million cubic meters of gas through it daily." Putin suggested that Russia modernize the 1974 Central Asia-Center gas pipeline that runs from Turkmenistan via Uzbekistan and Kazakstan to Russia, and build a new leg on the Caspian's eastern coast via Kazakstan.
Turkmenistan has the world's fifth-largest reserves of natural gas and substantial oil resources. Two-thirds of Turkmen gas goes through the Russian national monopoly, Gazprom. Russia has a gas contract with its former Soviet ally stretching into 2028, and Gazprom has signed a separate deal until 2009 with Turkmenistan, to supply 162 billion cubic meters of gas to Russia at $100 per cubic meter, two-and-a-half times lower than gas prices for Europe.
Following the death of former President Niyazov in December (in what sources have reported may have been an assassination), the U.S.A., Europe, and Georgia put pressure on Turkmenistan to return to a project to build a pipeline under the Caspian Sea to supply gas to southern Europe via Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey. Niyazov's successor has pursued a more open policy of contacts with its neighbors, especially Russia.