Russia multiplies gas routes to Europe

Russia multiplies gas routes to Europe
By Vladimir Socor

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Gazprom are announcing colossal plans to expand the capacities of existing gas export pipelines and build new ones, all in Europe beyond Russia’s territory.

Gazprom already co-owns and controls export pipeline capacities amounting to some 110 billion cubic meters (bcm) per year in Europe beyond Russia (Nord Stream One and Two, Yamal-Europe, the export pipelines to the Baltic States and Finland, and Blue Stream), including more than 90 bcm per year in pipelines located within the European Union.

Apart from this, Russia remains the sole user (albeit at decreasing annual usage levels) of Ukraine’s state-owned pipeline

system with its westbound transit capacity of 140 bcm per year. Moscow now proposes to build new pipelines with capacities amounting to some 130 bcm per year (Nord Stream Three and Four, “Yamal-Europe Two”, South Stream), all within EU territory.

Thanks to the recently completed Nord Stream One and Two (2011–2012), Russia has some 250 bcm per year in export pipeline capacities at its disposal in Europe; and would increase that to a grand total of some 380 bcm per year, if the new projects are completed as proposed. Meanwhile, Gazprom’s current sales in Europe are down to some 150 bcm of gas annually in the framework of long-term supply commitments, with only scant hopes to regain Gazprom’s pre-crisis export levels of some 180 bcm annually in a post-crisis Europe. Moreover, Russia faces the prospect of a net loss of overall market share due to growing competition from liquefied gas on European markets.

Why, then, does Russia offer all those new export pipelines to Europe, at colossal capacities and costs? No fully satisfactory answers to this question appear to exist (Russian steel industry’s profiteering at state expense would be one such answer). But some grand policy objectives are clearly discernible behind the various pipeline proposals.


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Report that Russia Has Issued Gold and Silver Coins Which Can Be Used As Legal Tender [jessescrossroadscafe]

Unfortunately I do not read Russian so I have not yet completely verified this, but I thought it was interesting enough to pass along on the face of it, since it is ‘making the rounds’ of the internet, and some have asked me about it.

Here is the reported document in Russian.

As they are not coins for general circulation but rather coins to commemorate the Russian Olympics I do not see this as signficant perhaps as the blogger quoted below. Also it appears that they will be issued in rather limited numbers so will probably price as a collectible and not as currency. That is how it is with commemoratives in limited edition.

Here is the sentence from the document that provoked such a strong reaction in some circles.

“The coins are legal tender cash payment in the Russian Federation and must be accepted at face value in all kinds of payments without any restrictions.”

I have not yet done all the math to determine the equivalent ‘face value’ of the coins in other currencies, but I have taken an initial swipe at it.

In the case of the 50 Rouble gold coin, it is 7.78 grams, or 0.25013 troy oz.

At $1700 per ounce, that would make the gold coin worth about .999 x .25013 = .25 ounce of gold, or roughly $425 for a face value coin of 50 roubles.

That is about 8.5 dollars to the rouble. And I don’t think many would take that exchange, since the US dollar is now trading at about 30.77 roubles.

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US Senate to debate Magnitsky Act [PressTV]

The tombstone of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky at a cemetery in Moscow

The tombstone of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky at a cemetery in Moscow
The US Senate is set to vote whether a law to penalize human rights violators will only be applied to Russia or to all countries around the world.

Last week, US lawmakers overwhelmingly ratified the Magnitsky Act to punish Russians considered to have violated human rights.

Ben Cardin, Democratic Senator for Maryland and the original sponsor of the Senate version of the Magnitsky, said, “I absolutely want it to be global.”

“This is a human rights tool that we have available to advance against all international human rights abusers.”

The bill is named after Russian anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who died in a pretrial detention center in Moscow in 2009 after allegedly being tortured by Russian authorities.

The Magnitsky Act would freeze American bank accounts and deny US visas to corrupt officials and human rights violators in Russia.

Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have supported the legislation, which also calls for the names of the targeted officials to be made public.

“The House should be proud of what it is accomplishing today for human rights and the rule of law for the Magnitsky family, for the Russian people, for honorable Russian officials, and for human rights defenders inside and outside Russia,” said Jim McGovern, a Democrat from Massachusetts, ahead of the vote.

McGovern also stated that the law allows the White House to classify the names of targeted Russian officials “only if the president determines that it is absolutely vital to the national security interests of the United States and provides Congress with prior notice and justification.”

St. Pete’s new armored surveillance vehicle has cameras, not guns [wmnf]

The St. Petersburg Police Department unveiled the newest addition to their crime stopping fleet this morning – it’s an armored surveillance vehicle. The mobile monitoring device can record activity in a 360-degree radius during the day or night. The former Brinks cash truck won’t be manned by a police officer. But that doesn’t mean no one is watching the area around it. It will instead by monitored remotely by officers on an as-needed basis. St. Pete Police Chief Chuck Harmon said the idea is not to catch crime, but to deter it.

“The purpose of this thing is to be very overt so that people see it, it’s discouraging. It’s not a hidden camera where we’re trying to capture things, but there are cameras there that will capture things if things occur.”

The cameras inside are capable of rotating in a complete circle and zooming. They are equipped with night vision and even infrared technology. The city allocated $18,000 for the equipment. Political activist Leonard Schmiege said the vehicle provides a little too much spying power for his taste.

“I think it’s a waste of money. It shows a militarization of a city which is a shame and I disagree with spending that money on it.”

But according to Police Chief Harmon, the surveillance vehicle isn’t meant to monitor private residences or into windows.

“It’s really meant to look for the exterior activity going on around buildings not into buildings. So, that’s the privacy we’re speaking of. We’re not trying to target into a business, into a residence, none of those things. We will have some justification for parking it there obviously. We’re going to look at – anybody could go in there and view those areas that we’re looking at.”

But the graphics on the giant truck announce with bright green glowing eyes that the truck is watching. The design is based on student artwork submissions and was honed by the parks and recreation teen group called TASCO. Robert Norton is on the team that completed the $12,000 project.

“We met the day before – or two days before the Fourth of July – we made everything the day before, we were off Fourth of July and then we had our large Treasure Island Beach Bash and that’s where we solicited the kids with their ideas. So, we kind of threw that together really quick and then we were able to move a little slower to get everything done. We had never designed anything like this before. If you can imagine designing a graphic that’s seven and half feet wide by six and a half feet high just on one side and we had to create three sides to it in all.”

Police Chief Harmon expects to start using the mobile surveillance vehicle as soon as next week. But he doesn’t know where it will be parked yet. The agency plans to determine where it would prevent the most crime and partner with city council. What Harmon does know is officers may have to park the vehicle illegally.

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Putin reshuffles top military circle [xinhuanet]

MOSCOW, Nov. 9 (Xinhua) — Russian President Vladimir Putin made a reshuffle in the country’s top military circle following the dismissal of defense minister Anatoly Serdyukov, the Kremlin said Friday.

Putin relieved the chief of the armed forces General Staff Nikolai Makarov and the first deputy defense minister Alexander Sukhorukov of their duties, the Kremlin press service reported.

He appointed Commander of the Central Military District Valery Gerasimov as the new Chief of General Staff and Commander of the Western Military District Arkaly Bakhin as the first deputy defense minister.

Gerasimov, 57, also assumed a post of first deputy defense minister.

“One of our priority tasks is to rearm army and fleet,” Putin told the new Chief of General Staff during a meeting along with the new defense head Sergei Shoigu.

“Science and technology in this sector develop fast, and new means of warfare are emerging all the time. Of course we must orient ourselves toward prospective means, but at the same time a degree of stability is also essential,” Putin said.

Meanwhile, Putin promoted Commander of the Air Space Forces, 55-year-old Oleg Ostapenko to the position of deputy defense minister and relieved several dozens of Serdyukov’s advisors off their duties.

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Russian government to finalize large-scale oil deal [xinhuanet]

MOSCOW, Oct. 23 (Xinhua) — Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the government to prepare documents needed to finalize the TNK-BP and Rosneft purchase deal, Rosneft CEO said Tuesday.

“Yesterday I told the president about the first stage of these deals and he gave the corresponding orders to the head of the government (Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev),” said Rosneft head Igor Sechin in a telephone news briefing.

Rosneft’s eventual benefits from the deal could amount to 3 to 5 billion U.S. dollars, according to Sechin.

The oil giant buys out 100 percent of the TNK-BP from its two owners, the British Petroleum (BP) and the Russian group Alfa- Access-Renova (AAR) for 61 billion dollars, the company said on Monday.

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Russia slashes African debt and increases aid [RT]

AFP Photo / Alexander Joe

AFP Photo / Alexander Joe

Russia is writing off $20bln in African debt coupled with a $50mln donation to the poorest countries. This is part of a diplomatic move to help the African Continent.

“We take part in peacekeeping operations on the continent. We expand programmes to train African peacekeepers and law enforcers,” Vladimir Sergeyev, director of the Russian Foreign Ministry Department of International Organisations, told the UN General Assembly.


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