Russia to start building major naval base in Abkhazia this year / Russian authorities satisfied with new patriarch / Gas war over, Europe still short of gas / Former German spy may be nominated to Gazprom board
Russia to start building major naval base in Abkhazia this year
South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two breakaway Georgian provinces recognized by Moscow, are beginning to demarcate their borders with Georgia. The new borders will differ from their old administrative borders.
The paper's sources said South Ossetia would receive the Akhalgori District and villages in the Bolshaya and Malaya Liakhva gorges.
This decision will inevitably aggravate relations between Moscow and Tbilisi still further after the Russian military announced plans to launch construction of a major naval base in Abkhazia this year.
The Russian Navy's Main Headquarters confirmed on Tuesday reports that Moscow would start building a naval base in Ochamchira, Abkhazia, during 2009.
Last summer, Abkhazian President Sergei Bagapsh said only two Russian military bases would be established in the Kodori Gorge, which will have to be built from scratch, and Gudauta, using the infrastructure of a former Soviet base.
The Russian statement on building the Ochamchira naval base was somewhat unexpected. The Abkhazian military said it would be much easier to establish a similar base in Sukhumi, which has its own harbor.
"The Ochamchira base will have to be built from scratch in shallow waters," a source at the Abkhazian Defense Ministry told the paper.
Although the Russian Navy's Main Headquarters said it would take several years to build the Ochamchira naval base, the Russian military is undeterred.
"The strategically important Ochamchira region is located almost on the Georgian-Abkhazian border. Consequently, Russian warships will be able to control Georgian territorial waters, while Sukhumi is less suited for that purpose," a member of the Georgian Parliament told the paper.
Tbilisi said the Russian government was also interested in Ochamchira shelf.
"Ochamchira is a unique place abounding in oil and gas. Russia, which probably does not have enough natural resources, is therefore eyeing our own resources," former Georgian Foreign Minister Alexander Rondeli, now president of the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies, told the paper.
Gazeta.ru, Vedomosti, RBC Daily
Russian authorities satisfied with new patriarch
Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad was elected the 16th Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia on Tuesday.
He received 508 votes (72%) of the Local Council, comprising bishops, priests, monks and laymen, including politicians and businessmen, which convened in Moscow to elect the new Russian Orthodox Church leader.
The authorities traditionally pay great attention to the election of the patriarch, the top post in the Russian Orthodox Church.
It was not only Russian leaders lobbying for their candidates. In particular, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko favored Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk and Slutsk. The rumor says he discussed his candidacy at a meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in mid-December last year.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev publicly expressed their support for Kirill by attending the ceremony held to mark 40 days since the death of Patriarch Alexy II in Moscow's Epiphany Cathedral and holding a private meeting with the metropolitan after it.
According to a survey conducted by Medialogia, Russia's first company analyzing the media in real time, at the request of Gazeta.ru, Kirill dominated state TV channels, which is clear proof of the authorities' support.
Laymen from the pro-Kremlin United Russia party polled by the Vedomosti daily before the election said they would vote for Kirill, who has been the Church's interim leader since the death of Alexy II.
They said they would vote for him because he had the support of the party and the country's leadership. The fact that President Medvedev attended the Christmas mass conducted by Kirill was seen as vivid proof.
Political analyst Yevgeny Minchenko said: "The authorities have consolidated around Kirill."
The new patriarch's first speech focused on relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the authorities. Kirill hinted that he would work on new legislation to seal the non-interference of the state in church affairs and special guarantees for the clergy.
Analysts say that the largest changes should be expected in relations between the church and the authorities.
Viktor Militarev, president of the Development Institute Foundation, said: "Patriarch Kirill will be friendly with the state leadership, but will politely remind them about the need to make state policy, the economy and social life more Christian."
Gas war over, Europe still short of gas
Poland, whose President Lech Kaczynski took Ukraine's side during its gas conflict with Russia, is still short of a quarter of the natural gas it needs.
Gazprom denies all allegations of revenge saying the gas accumulated in storage tanks by RosUkrEnergo has not yet reached Warsaw.
Yet, Ukraine and Romania, which also have contacts with the former Ukrainian intermediary, are receiving the entire amount contracted. Poland's supplies will only be fully restored after it cuts transit fees for Gazprom.
A source in Gazprom said on Tuesday that the exporter was fulfilling its contract obligations. The intergovernmental agreement of 1993 stipulated annual supply by Russia of 11 billion cubic meters of gas, but Poland failed to use the entire amount supplied, and after several years an additional agreement was signed limiting supplies to 7 billion cubic meters.
Rosukrenergo has supplied an additional 2.5 billion cu m a year since 2006.
"Poland should officially apply to have the RosUkrEnergo contract cancelled, but it hasn't done so," a Gazprom Export source explained.
A Gazprom group source said Russia was expecting Poland to make additional concessions after having supported Ukraine during its gas conflict with Russia - for example, cut gas transit fees.
The agreement between Gazprom and Poland's PGNiG says that Europolgaz, the Polish operator of the Yamal-Europe pipeline (the section crossing Poland), should work without profit. Gazprom and PGNiG own 48% each in the company.
Meanwhile, RosUkrEnergo, which is 50% owned by Gazprom, has got itself a champion. Ukraine's customs chief Valery Khoroshkovsky said on Tuesday he would not recognize the 11 cubic meters of gas currently stored in tanks as the property of Naftogaz of Ukraine.
"That gas is owned by RosUkrEnergo. The agreement saying that Gazprom was assigning that gas to RosUkrEnergo is signed incorrectly, bearing one signature instead of two," the official said adding that the gas would not be cleared until it is also signed by Dmitry Firtash, RosUkrEnergo co-owner (45%) and Gazprom partner. Otherwise, Naftogaz will face smuggling charges.
Former German spy may be nominated to Gazprom board
Mattias Warnig - managing director of the Nord Stream pipeline, former intelligence agent and friend of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin - will be nominated to join the Gazprom board of directors, Vedomosti was told by several sources including a government official, a Gazprombank manager and one of Warnig's personal acquaintances.
Gazprom has asked Warnig, 53, to agree for the nomination, and the German banker accepted, a reliable source confirmed. The list of nominees will be finalized later this week, as nominations are accepted until January 30. The current board will consider the nominations on February 4, one of the sources added. Gazprom's new board of directors will be elected on June 26.
Warnig, who has been unsuccessfully nominated to Gazprom's board several times since 2006, may now replace the only independent Gazprom director, a source told Vedomosti. Boris Fyodorov, Russia's former finance minister and founder of UFG, died last November.
A former East German intelligence officer, Warnig has worked in Russia since 1991, for Dresdner Bank until 2005, and since 2006 as managing director of Nord Stream, the operator of a major pipeline project 51% owned by Gazprom.
Gazprom's board of directors has remained practically unchanged for the past four years, the only important appointment occurring last year when First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov replaced President Dmitry Medvedev as board chairman.
Zubkov will be nominated again, we expect no surprises, a government official said. The prime minister's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, declined to comment now, saying the list of government nominees had not yet been signed by Putin.
Gazprom has nominated five independent candidates for two years running: Viktor Nikolayev, director of the St. Petersburg Exchange, MICEX president Alexander Potyomkin, Bob Foresman, deputy chairman of Renaissance Capital, Alexander Shokhin, president of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, and Yevgeny Yasin, research director at the Moscow-based Higher School of Economics. None of these candidates has been elected.
Nikolayev and Foresman said they were nominated again this year. Yasin was offered the nomination, but did not accept this time.
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