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Russian Article Concludes: 'Putin and Gazprom Still Need' Kuchma

CEP20021016000341 Moscow Kommersant in Russian 16 Oct 02

[Report by Petr Netreba: "Gazprom Without Kuchma" -- taken from HTML version of source provided by ISP]

[FBIS Translated Text]
    No particular sympathy for Leonid Kuchma is harbored at either the Kremlin or at the White House on Krasnopresnenskaya Naberezhnaya Street. Nevertheless, Russia has gotten down to solving the gas issues in Russian-Ukrainian relations -- the reduction of gas theft, the repayment of gas debts, and the organization of Russian gas transit -- only after personal talks were held by Vladimir Putin and Leonid Kuchma. Each issue has been worked on for a long time, and negotiations have frequently looked strange. In 2000 in Minsk, when it was being decided whether Ukraine would recognize its $1.4 billion debt for gas, Vladimir Putin had to sit Leonid Kuchma and Viktor Yushchenko (then still Ukrainian prime minister, but already an oppositionist to Mr. Kuchma) at the same table, so as to confirm the promises the two Ukrainian leaders had given separately, but which remained unfulfilled. Then Vladimir Putin supported Leonid Kuchma politically, and in exchange received the debts, although in installments.

    But Russia's main aim is to control the transit export pipeline. The instability of its Ukrainian segment keeps Gazprom's main partners -- the German Ruhrgas and the French Gaz de France -- tense. The ideal solution for Gazprom is for it to obtain ownership of the Ukrainian pipeline system, in exchange for the debts and future investments into the operation and modernization of the pipelines. It was just this that was discussed in the memorandum on strategic cooperation of Russia and Ukraine in the gas sphere signed by Vladimir Putin and Leonid Kuchma in Petersburg on 9 June 2002. Then the presidents ordered their governments to prepare, within strict time-frames, an agreement on a gas consortium to be joined in the future by Germany and France. But for Mikhail Kasyanov and Anatoliy Kinakh to be able to sign this agreement on 7 October 2002 in Chisinau, Vladimir Putin had to take Leonid Kuchma to the location of the signing in his own plane. Simultaneously, an agreement of the same kind, on the same topic, was also signed by the Russian Gazprom and the Ukrainian national company Naftogaz Ukrainy.

    The documents have come out vague, and the decisive battle over who will control the pipeline is only getting warmed up. Vladimir Putin has for the time being agreed to wait a bit on the privatization of the Ukrainian pipelines, and Anatoliy Kinakh promised that in the event of a negative conclusion regarding its economic feasibility, the consortium would not be created. Asked by Kommersant to assess the future consortium if Leonid Kuchma is forced to resign, those at Gazprom yesterday only responded on condition of anonymity: "The problem of ensuring the reliability of the Ukrainian gas transport network is objective. Any responsible politician will have to solve it, and to seek resources in the billions. Not that much time now remains for solving this large-scale issue, and it will be a great shame if this project, which is already proceeding with relative difficulty, looses momentum." And so, Vladimir Putin and Gazprom still need Leonid Kuchma.

[Description of Source: Moscow Kommersant in Russian -- Informative daily newspaper purchased by Boris Berezovskiy in 1999 and often reflecting his viewpoint.]


Gazprom plans 50 percent rise in gas prices in 2003 to boost investment

CEP20021014000223 Moscow ITAR-TASS in English 1401 GMT 14 Oct 02

[FBIS Transcribed Text]

MOSCOW, October 14 (Itar-Tass) -- Russia's gas concern Gazprom will need to invest at least 188.1 billion roubles in its operations in 2003, its senior official said.
  In order to secure such investment, the company will have to raise gas prices by 50 percent next year, Gazprom deputy board chairman Alexander Ananenkov said at the conference "All-Russia Week of Oil and Gas".
  At the same time, he quoted Gazprom estimates indicating that a 50 percent gas price increase will cause electricity prices to grow by not more than 6 percent, the Prime-Tass news agency said.
  Ananenkov also said that Gazprom needs to expand its gas distribution network in order to boost extraction. The network's capacity has decreased by 59 billion cubic metres in 2002.
[Description of Source: Moscow ITAR-TASS in English -- main government information agency]


Russia: Latest Gazprom Projects Seen as Part of Plan To Break It Up

CEP20021004000067 Moscow Nezavisimaya Gazeta in Russian 03 Oct 02

[Article by Artem Chetvertnov: "The Order To Sell Has Arrived. Gazprom's New Loans Are a Hidden Form of Redividing the Concern's Property" -- taken from HTML version of source provided by ISP]

[FBIS Translated Text]
Gazprom has developed an interest in culture and sport.  The advertising and news proclaim loudly that the concern will bring us Geringas and La Scala, will give money to the Olympic Committee and the Russian Formula-1 driver, will sponsor the "Royal Hunt" exhibition and the Venture Fair...

   But Gazprom is not only interested in culture and sport.  Amid yesterday's various important news items the report that the Indian Government is examining a project for laying a gas pipeline on the bottom of the Arabian Sea passed almost unnoticed.  The project involves the Indian state gas corporation and its Russian colleague -- Gazprom.  The gas pipeline is to run for 1,500 km and its cost will be $2.3 billion.  Construction will take five to seven years.

   All this is very reminiscent of another Gazprom project -- Blue Stream, where the pipeline was also supposed to be laid on the sea bed, though in this case it is a less distant sea -- the Black Sea.  The project has been under way for eight years now.  When the time came that the Turkish partners wanted to inspect the Krasnodar sector of the pipeline it suddenly emerged that it had been washed away by force majeure in an extremely well-timed flood.  (But that is only 300 km, give or take a few.  The Indian project will need a flood approximately five times more powerful.  In view of the desert character of the Arabian site it would be more convenient to attribute the misfortune to sandstorms.)

   Gazprom's involvement in projects to utilize money has recently taken on the scale of the Arabian deserts, in fact.  However, it is naive to think that what lies behind this is the banal plan of a Soviet construction-site supervisor:  get hold of bigger sums and "utilize" them in such a way that there is plenty for yourself.  The story of the gas concern's latest borrowings opens the door to other theories that are more like conspiracy theories.

   Literally within the last month the Gazprom leadership has concluded high-profile agreements with two Russian banks that have strong financial and -- most important -- political potential.  The banks could participate in Gazprom's programs to the tune of $1-1.5 billion each.

   Nobody knows the terms on which the new credits will be attracted from the new creditors.  It should be recalled, for instance, that Gazprom's previous leadership used to borrow money against future export earnings.  That is to say, it basically deprived the concern and the country of income in future periods (as a result the state itself later had to top up its own main feeding trough -- which is absurd).  However, for all that, Gazprom still slipped the government money for pensions -- it urgently and easily repaid part of the huge tax arrears following intensive requests and pressure...  In short, the financial relations were interesting.

   Against what assets will the credits be attracted now?  If we develop the conspiracy theory we can suggest:  against shares.  The good old system from the days of primary accumulation could also very well come into play -- issue credit to a half-dead state enterprise and then take possession of it in exchange for the debts.  (True, formally this process used to be the fate of some little provincial state plant.  Nobody has yet ventured to apply this mechanism to such a large state corporation.)

   In any event, under these scenarios Gazprom might well change owner, or rather be scattered among various owners, who at the right moment will turn out to be "in on things" at the concern.

   To that end the money received must be squandered in the right way.  On lavish sponsorship programs, on growing and unfulfilled commitments to third-party investors from somewhere like Turkey or India, and so forth.

   On examining this scenario we can hardly see it as based on the malicious intent of the loan issuers alone.  Who knows, maybe this fate -- being chopped up for debts -- has been decreed from above for Gazprom.  And even the loan issuers have been specially selected.  (Or else they got hold of the information and then it was their own idea.)  It is quite possible that the selling off of Gazprom has already begun and that that is what Miller's team came to do.

   It is important that under this scenario the question of demonopolization of Gazprom will be resolved, so to speak, by creeping economic means, without any administrative efforts that might provoke strong resistance.  Nobody will even notice.

   Nobody noticed when the average life of Railways Ministry leadership personnel was suddenly reduced sharply.  When the surviving top managers at the Railways Ministry suddenly started refusing to fulfill the orders of the new minister -- and that in a semi-military organization (see the item "Iron Custom" [by Yevgeniy Solovyev in Nezavisimaya Gazeta 3 Oct] on this topic)...  I would like to write that nobody will notice when YeES [Unified Energy System of Russia] is divided, but my typewriter will not obey me -- after all, that process is already being talked about.  Who knows, maybe the history textbooks will say that the breakup of YeES was carried out most openly and legally compared with the division of other important monopolies.

   However, Gazprom's involvement in the Arabian project might not mean any of these things.  It is true that the Indians need gas.  And it is advantageous to us.

[Description of Source: Moscow Nezavisimaya Gazeta in Russian -- Daily Moscow newspaper aimed at an elite audience and controlled by Boris Berezovskiy.]


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