THE CASPIAN BREAKTHROUGH

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THE CASPIAN BREAKTHROUGH

Trud 7, May 16, 2002, p. 2

It was almost a sensation – a document has been signed in Moscow by Russia and Kazakhstan, a document described by Vladimir Putin as “a real breakthrough in cooperation between our two countries in the development of the Caspian Sea”. This is a protocol for a bilateral agreement on sharing the sea floor in the northern Caspian, an agreement achieved about four years ago.

The document sets out the exact latitude and longitude along which the so-called “modified middle line” passes between the two countries. Besides, it provides for joint development in equal shares of the three oil fields located in this area – Kurmangazy, Khvalynskoye, and Tsentralnoye. The former is the largest of them. Experts estimate its reserves at approximately 10% of the overall oil reserves located in the Kazakh part of the sea. According to the protocol, it will be fully managed by Kazakhstan, while the remaining two oil fields will be managed by Russia. All three borderline shelf fields will be developed at a similar level, which suggests the idea of creating joint ventures. Kazakhstan, managing Kurmangazy, will receive 50% of the extracted oil, Russia will receive 25%. At the same time, the partner nation has the right to redeem the remaining 25%. A similar plan will be in effect for the development of the Khvalynskoye and Tsentralnoye fields.

The agreements reached are a “breakthrough”, since their meaning goes far beyond the limits of bilateral interests. This document, judging by response in foreign press, aroused great interest of the business elite in Europe and North America (which does not conceal the disappointment with the results of the recent summit in Ashgabat).

The settlement of territorial arguments gives a sharp rise in the investment attractiveness of projects in the northern part of the Caspian Sea. This, in turn, promises considerable financial dividends to the parties which have made the bargain.

Thus, Iran and Turmenistan (the main opponents of the idea of sharing the Caspian shelf in this way) will be presented with the fait accompli of the problem having been settled across most of the Caspian area.

AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A FORM FOR A FORM

Trud 7, May 16, 2002, p. 3

American citizens visiting Russia will now have to fill out two visa forms instead of one.

This does not apply to everyone, however: only men aged 16 to 45. Exactly as Russian men from the same age group have to do when they visit the US.

The second Russian visa form is a symmetrical response to the Americans. However, the symmetry is not complete, Russian diplomats say. First, because the US introduced the new form as far back as January, while Russia is doing so only in May. Besides, questions in the forms do not fully coincide. Thus, the American form includes a question about the applicant’s membership of “a clan or a tribe”, while the Russian one does not. However, it has two extra questions: has the applicant previously been denied a Russian visa, or has the applicant’s visa been annulled after being issued?

As for the rest, the forms are almost exactly the same. The applicant has to draw up a list of countries he has visited over the past ten years; mention his previous citizenship, if any; give data about his most recent two jobs, including the name and the address of the organization, the post, and the surname and telephone number of the employer; and list all charities, public groups, and labor unions of which he is a member.

NUCLEAR RUBLE FISSION

Izvestia, May 16, 2002, p. 6

A new player appeared in the struggle for the money of the Nuclear Ministry. This is a bank not that highly though of in Moscow, the SVA Bank at which one of the most important enterprises of the Nuclear Ministry, the Rosenergoatom concern, recently opened an account. The bank’s owner Sergei Kovanda was long acquainted to the recent curator of the branch, Ilya Klebanov. Therefore, his interest for atomic money was no great wonder. However, it may turn out that the SVA Bank is trying to obtain the money of the Nuclear Ministry not for itself, but “at the request” of one of large banking structures that were long trying to share the profitable client.

The financial flows of the Ministry for Nuclear Energy make dozens of billions of dollars. Some of these funds have long been distributed between Sberbank, Rosbank, Vneshtorgbank (international projects). The other part – the inheritance of departmental Conversbank – has long been the subject of discord between Alfa-Bank and MDM-Bank.

Rosenergoatom, one of the Nuclear Ministry’s largest structures, decided independently where to transfer accounts. The concern opened recently accounts at the SVA Bank which is among Russia’s 100 largest banks, but is not known through something eminent. Banking quarters consider the bank’s owner Sergei Kovanda a man of ex Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov.

Analysts say that most of the SVA Bank’s credit portfolio is “either given out to close structures, or is part of a scheme”. The yield of 11% per annum drives them at such thoughts. Generally, taking into account that among the bank’s largest borrowers was Gazprom and its largest creditor – Gazprombank, a conclusion may be drawn that the bank really earns on servicing shadowy schemes of rich structures. Judging by the fact that Alfa-Bank is also a large creditor of the bank, a conclusion may be drawn that the SVA Bank plays on the side of Alfa-Bank in the struggle for the money of the Nuclear Ministry.

However, Gazprom is no longer the bank’s borrower. At the same time, when servicing the accounts of Rosenergoatom SVA is said to pursue its own interests only.

Representatives of Rosenergoatom refused even to confirm the fact of opening accounts at the SVA Bank. They say they need to receive permission to disclose such information, after which they cease to respond.

ACADEMIC DEGREES TO BE REFORMED

Izvestia, May 16, 2002, p. 2

On 15 May, a new document approved by the Cabinet came into force – a resolution “On approving the unified register of academic degrees and ranks and the provision on the procedure of conferring academic degrees”. The document does not revise the system of remuneration for scientists and scholars, but notably reforms the procedure of receiving the rank of professor and assistant professor.

FATHER’S CURSE

Trud, May 16, 2002, p. 5

According to the law-enforcement agencies, field commander Rappani Khalilov, closest assistant of Khattab, was connected with the terrorist act in Kaspiysk, in which 42 people were killed. The security services know that at present the leader of the Dagestan guerillas is in the Pankisi gorge, Georgia, and controls the actions of diversionary groups in Dagestan from there.

After the tragedy in Kaspiysk, his father, 70-year-old Abdullah Khalilov, publicly disowned his son. Here are his words: “I cannot call you my son, I have long since renounced you. My family is against you. Neither your mother nor I can forgive you. You are my worst enemy. If I capture you I will burn you with my own hands.”

Meanwhile, guerilla leaders are taking revenge on any Dagestanis and Chechens who resist Wahhabi fundamentalism and cooperate with the lawful government.

CLUB OF BUSINESS LEADERS AND POLITICIANS

Trud, May 16, 2002, p. 4

Russia has a Mercury Club now, which is supposed to become a place for ongoing dialogue between business and government. Yevgeny Primakov, head of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who initiated establishing this club under the aegis of the Chamber, invited guests for the presentation which took place in the congress hall of the Center of International Trade. It was no surprise that many famous Russian politicians and business leaders, people of the presidential administration and members of parliament, as well as foreign investors, accepted the invitation. Yevgeny Primakov is sure that the time of confrontation is passing by and the law-makers, the executive branch should keep contact with entrepreneurs. For example, they could prepare bills together, which would concern development of Russian business. To all appearances, the government has nothing against this kind of work.

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