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22 Oct, 2008 08:44

Wednesday’s press review

Wednesday’s press review

This Wednesday Russian newspapers discuss the chances of a ‘natural gas OPEC’, predict the future of the U.S. missile defense system in Eastern Europe and investigate the alleged illegal weapons trafficking between Ukraine and Georgia.

NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA writes: “Yesterday the idea of a ‘gas OPEC’ that had previously been publicly rejected by Moscow acquired its second wind. Iran, Russia and Qatar, the holders of over 50% of the World’s natural gas, reached an agreement in Tehran about tri-party coordination in natural gas exports.”

KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA continues the topic by saying that “Iran has persuaded Russia to form a ‘gas OPEC.’” The paper says that Alexey Miller, the Chairman of the Board of Gazprom, has already dubbed the loose tri-party alliance “The Big Gas Troyka” but withheld from making a clear signal that he supports his Iranian colleague’s statement that consensus on the ‘gas OPEC’ had been formed during the Tehran meeting.

VEDOMOSTI says that the world’s three biggest natural gas exporters are concerned about gas prices in times of crisis, but at the moment there is no plan whatsoever to create a gas OPEC. An organisation of this name has not been created yet, writes the paper. It says representatives of Iran, Russia and Qatar all spoke of a necessity for cooperation in the face of the financial crisis, but every one of them said that in his own way.

If the Iranian Minister of Oil Golamhossein Nazori said that “there is a necessity to create a ‘gas OPEC’ and here we have a consensus in its favour”, the Qatari Energy Minister Abdullah ben Hamad al-Attiyah hinted at a possibility of forming an organisation at the next tri-party meeting. The head of Gazprom Alexey Miller only spoke of “cooperation in programs in a tri-lateral format.”

KOMMERSANT publishes a column by Mikhail Krutikhin, a partner and analyst at Rusenergy. He writes that usually the idea of a gas OPEC emerges due to the political calls of the time, and when the moment passes it fades away until the next one arrives. He writes it would be possible to talk about a gas cartel raising prices only when the share of gas sold in the world market in the form of tanker-transported liquid petroleum gas (LPG) reaches 25 – 30%. The current figure is an insignificant 8% – in fact, he says, gas is mainly delivered through pipelines, and that mandates long-term agreements between the seller and the buyer. No cartel can control that, says the author.

VREMYA NOVOSTEI writes that the Czech Republic’s parliament will vote to decide if the current government is fit to run the country. Not only the future of the Cabinet depends on this vote but also, to an extent, the fate of the elements of the U.S. missile defense system to be deployed in the Republic. The paper says public opinion surveys show that over 70% of the Czech population do not want U.S. missile defense systems on their soil.

They think, continues the article, that would make the Czech Republic a legitimate target for a Russian nuclear strike. However analysts in the U.S. say that the inertia of the Czech state machine is such that even if the public rejects the project, the U.S. will have to go ahead with it anyway.

IZVESTIA continues the investigation of the alleged illegal arms deals between Ukraine and Georgia. Strangely enough, says the article, Ukraine has shown a slow reaction to the accusations against its president who was allegedly involved in the sales of Ukrainian and Polish weapons to Georgia. A series of secret documents acquired by the newspaper showed that the weapons, including tanks, were sold at hugely discounted prices and that in several cases the weapons were taken off active duty units, thus lowering the combat readiness of the Ukrainian armed forces.

The paper reveals the story behind two Polish-made Surface-to-Air missiles (SAMs) captured recently from a Chechen separatist gang: the paper traces their origin to a deal in which Poland was selling to Ukraine acting on behalf of Georgia under the control of U.S. intelligence.

One of the missiles was fired at a Russian military aircraft from a hilltop but missed. The other one and the empty tube from the first were captured intact together with the militant who was carrying them. The only reaction the paper has received from Ukraine was one phrase from the Ukrainian Security Service: ‘We will find those who gave secret documents to IZVESTIA.’

Evgeny Belenkiy, RT

Tuesday’s Press Review

Monday's Press Review