MOSCOW, August 14 (RIA Novosti) Russia must profit from the West's Kosovo plans - expert/Former Soviet energy producers to buy Russian weapons/Glencore helps Rusal lift duty/Gazprom invited to join Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project/Russia to have Polar national park
Russia must profit from the West's Kosovo plans - expert
The West, which only recently was actively pushing Martti Ahtisaari's Kosovo plan, is now no less ardently supporting the idea of dividing Kosovo between the two irreconcilable local groups, the Serbs and the Albanians, to settle the issue of its status.
As for Russia, experts have said it should try and profit from the settlement models the West will insist on.
"A unilateral declaration of Kosovo's independence and its recognition by Western powers would give Moscow an equal right to propose a similar recognition of South Ossetia, Transdnestr and Abkhazia," said Andrei Shemyakin, deputy director of the Institute of Slavic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
"The same holds true for the option of dividing Kosovo. That model could be applied to the Caucasus, a region where delineation lines might as well be drawn between Abkhazian and Georgian districts or between Georgian and Ossetian villages. A single principle of international law must certainly be applied to the conflicts in Kosovo, Abkhazia and South Ossetia," the expert adds.
The United States and Western Europe have been trying hard to avoid such similarities lately, insisting on the "uniqueness" of the Kosovo crisis. It was the reason why the once popular division option had been shelved before.
"The ethnically based division of Kosovo had been globally discussed a few years ago, before Ahtisaari took office," said Konstantin Nikiforov, director of the Institute of Slavic Studies.
"Belgrade was the main opponent of the plan then. It categorically rejected the idea in the hope of preserving the whole of Kosovo under its jurisdiction then. As of now, Kosovo Albanians are highly unlikely to accept the scheme. The West, too, must realize that the precedent will make it possible to apply similar schemes to inter-ethnic conflicts in the former Soviet republics, where the West has so far been firmly supporting Moldova's and Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity," Nikiforov added.
Former Soviet energy producers to buy Russian weapons
Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan have signed contracts with Russia to buy new armored vehicles, and Kazakhstan could also sign agreements on the repair of the Russian-made MiG-29 Fulcrum and MiG-31 Foxhound fighters.
According to experts, Turkmenistan is another potential buyer of Russian weapons.
In July, Russia's state-run arms exporter, Rosoboronexport, signed a contract to deliver about 70 new BTR-80 armored personnel carriers (APC) to Azerbaijan. Some time before that, it agreed to deliver the same number of APCs to Kazakhstan.
Rosoboronexport and the Military Industrial Company, which is part of the Russian Machines holding company controlling the Arzamas-based producer of the APCs, declined to comment.
However, an official from the Russian Defense Ministry confirmed the contracts. He added that if the sides are satisfied with their fulfillment, they could sign more contracts for BTR-80s, and Azerbaijan could also become the first buyer of the more expensive BTR-90 APCs.
Dmitry Vasilyev, editor-in-chief of the Eksport Vooruzheniy arms exports magazine, said the latest announced price per BTR-80 sold to Bangladesh was about $300,000 per carrier.
Therefore, the sale of 140 APCs to Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan would earn Russia at least $40 million.
Sergei Suvorov, editor-in-chief of the Army and Navy Review magazine, said it made sense that Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan bought Russian weapons, and that they would most likely buy more.
Suvorov, who is a tank colonel, said that Western arms are more expensive and not as reliable in hot climates as those made in Russia. Besides, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan have the requisite personnel and maintenance experience from the Soviet era.
A source in the aviation industry said one more agreement, worth $100 million, could be announced at the MAKS 2007 aerospace show, to be held in August near Moscow. It stipulates the repair and revamping of the MiG-29 and MiG-31 fighters.
Konstantin Makiyenko, an expert with the Center for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, said Russia should step up the sale of arms to post-Soviet petroleum producers.
According to him, Kazakhstan is the richest and strategically most important client, as well as a military ally of Russia.
However, Russia should not overlook Azerbaijan, either, and should also analyze the market in Turkmenistan, currently dominated by Ukraine, which is marketing its remaining Soviet-made weapons, Makiyenko said.
Glencore helps Rusal lift duty
United Company Rusal has finally had a 22.7% duty lifted from its deliveries of Russian silicon to the European Union. SUAL, which now forms part of Rusal, secured that particular European Court ruling more than a year ago.
But the EU recognized it only recently. Experts credit that to Swiss-based trader Glencore, which has joined Rusal as one of its co-owners.
Rusal said Monday the company would benefit economically because the 10,000 tons of silicon that was exported over and above the quota would go duty-free. That is to say, Rusal will, as before, export 25,000 tons of silicon to the EU, paying only the all-European 5.5% duty for all goods.
As estimated by Zenit Bank analyst Igor Nuzhdin, Rusal will get small dividends from the EU decision - a mere $3.8 million a year.
Swiss-based Aluminum Silicon Mill Products GmbH (ASMP), a SUAL trader, will earn more from that decision - the EU countries will now have to refund the payments ASMP made by way of duties.
The ASMP refused to explain on Monday if the trader joined the united company after Rusal, SUAL and Glencore merged together or remained under the control of Viktor Vekselberg's structures.
According to Nuzhdin's estimates, the ASMP will make $10-$13 million on the duty refund.
Analysts think Swiss-based Glencore, which has become one of Rusal's co-owners, helped the Russian aluminum makers lift the duty.
"Glencore has a strong lobby in Europe," Nuzhdin said.
Rusal was unable to explain Monday if the company would increase silicon exports by relaunching new capacities at the Zaporozhye Aluminum Smelter in Ukraine.
Several years ago they were closed down because of high production costs.
"Now that silicon prices are on the rise, we are considering options to reduce the costs and reactivate capacities," said Vera Kurochkina, a spokeswoman for Rusal.
Finam brokerage analyst Denis Gorev does not believe the EU will try to re-establish duties on Russian silicon, because, he said, it wanted it to compete successfully with Chinese products.
Gazprom invited to join Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project
Judging by all signs, the world community has grown accustomed to the idea that the security of gas projects is guaranteed only after Russian energy giant Gazprom enters the respective consortium.
Following partners in the Sakhalin II oil and gas project in Russia's Far East, India also wants to invite Gazprom.
Kanwal Sibal, India's ambassador to Russia, said at a press conference yesterday that Gazprom's possible participation in building the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline project might provide additional guarantees for the project's security.
He said that India repeatedly welcomed Gazprom's interest in the project. In turn, the Russian gas monopoly has confirmed that negotiations have been conducted, but has declined to comment in detail.
According to Gazprom's sources, it initially aimed to play the role of the operator of the project, but it would not refuse to join the project also as a contractor, providing research services.
Alexander Medvedev, Gazprom's deputy CEO and head of Gazprom Export, said that the holding would agree to directly participate in the project only when the participating countries sign an intergovernmental agreement.
The document has not been signed yet because of differences between Iran and India.
Early last year, the new Iranian leadership suggested that India should review the price of gas to be supplied under contracts made in 2004. The threat of a rise in the gas price by over 53% hindered talks on the implementation of the project.
Yet all the three countries are in no hurry to bury the IPI project. India said recently it would soon begin building its section of the pipeline.
Pakistan also intends to independently implement its part of the project. Pakistan's Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources said that construction would begin in mid-2009.
When work is completed (in 2011), the Pakistani section of the pipeline will be linked with the Iranian one, where work has already begun.
Gazprom was especially interested in cooperation with Iran within the IPI project. A draft agreement was prepared to set up a joint venture for building the gas pipeline.
Experts say that the coordinated interaction of the two major gas exporters would mean the creation of a gas OPEC. However, the exacerbation of the situation around the Iranian nuclear program suspended cooperation between the sides.
Russia to have Polar national park
Russia plans to create the world's second-largest national park after Greenland. Russian Arctic, with an area of 8.36 million hectares (20.658 million acres), will include 6.1 million hectares of territorial waters and comprise three parts - Franz-Josef Land, the northern part of the Novaya Zemlya Archipelago, and the Victoria Island, not far from Spitsbergen.
The creation of Russia's first polar national park will require an investment of 107 million rubles until 2010, according to Yuly Dobrushin, department head at the Rosgiproles environmental think-tank, the key developer of the project.
Around 60 million will be spent on evacuating 65 metric tons of oil products from Franz-Josef Land, left there by the Soviet Army.
Norway will probably contribute that amount out of environmental concerns, while the remaining 47 million rubles, to be procured from sources yet unknown, will go for the project design and for initial infrastructure, including the installment of security guard stations and the purchase of two off-road vehicles and three snowmobiles, Dobrushin said.
The project will also require annual contributions of 16 million rubles for salaries and to buy fuel.
Dobrushin hoped the government would provide the money. So far, the federal budget allotted a total of 1.8 million rubles, according to Anatoly Minyayev, head of the Arkhangelsk regional branch of Rosprirodnadzor, Russia's Federal Service for Environmental Supervision.
The area to be included in the national park is officially part of the Primorsky District of Arkhangelsk, but it is in effect federal property, Minyayev explained.
The national park project is supported by the Federal Frontier Service and the Russian Hydrometeorological Service, because there are a frontier post and an observatory in the region, although the Defense Ministry objects, Dobrushin said.
The area is used for intensive training and maneuvers by the Russian Army and Navy, a Defense Ministry source said, and a temporarily abandoned nuclear test ground is located in Novaya Zemlya.
The national park status will complicate combat training and make the area vulnerable to foreign intelligence observation, the source added.
Despite the possible rare-earth metals and oil and gas deposits in the region, the Arkhangelsk office of Rosnedra, the Federal Agency for Subsoil Use, mentioned no prospected fields there, Dobrushin said, adding that geological prospecting would be banned in the national park.
Minyayev, in turn, said extraction would be too expensive, in any event.
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