Russian Press - Behind the Headlines, January 30

© Alex StefflerRussian Press - Behind the Headlines, January 30
Russian Press - Behind the Headlines, January 30 - Sputnik International
Conscripts to Serve in Remote Regions \ Kazakhstan May Suspend Import of Russian Petroleum Products


Conscripts to Serve in Remote Regions

The General Staff has asked the Defense Minister to drop the territorial principle of service introduced by his predecessor.

The Defense Ministry’s Main Mobilization Directorate has drafted a proposal for Sergei Shoigu to change the way recruits are drafted for military service. The essence of the proposal is to re-establish the principle of extraterritoriality – sending residents of one region to serve in another region.

Former Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov held that conscripts should serve near their homes.

“We are convinced that recruits should be sent to other regions to do their military service” said a high-ranking spokesman for the General Staff. “Russia’s regions have different population densities and the number of young people subject to call-up also differs, but the army cannot depend on demographics.”

Sergei Krivenko, a member of the Presidential Human Rights Council, told Izvestia that Siberia and the Far East can no longer meet their military units’ staffing requirements.

He said that population density in the western, central and southern parts of the country is higher than it is in the Far East and Siberia, and so young men in these regions will be called up to serve with Far Eastern military units.

“Siberian and Far Eastern units are already being brought up to statutory strength levels with draftees from the Caucasus and Central Russia,” he added.

He said that Muscovites are traditionally drafted for service in other countries – Tajikistan, Armenia and Ukraine.

According to the Western Military District’s mobilization directorate, the Moscow Region alone has been receiving just 15% of the planned contingent over the past decade. This problem is now being compounded by the demographic shortfall, as those born in 1993-1995, the most catastrophic years for population replacement, are now due to be drafted.

The Directorate’s plans spell an additional headache for military enlistment offices. Interviewed by Izvestia, their heads forecast a sharp rise in the number of draft dodgers. He said that when the territorial principle was introduced his office obtained their full quota twice, while the call-up figure had previously been 50% at best.

Valentina Melnikova, executive secretary of the Soldiers' Mothers’ Committee, believes that most soldiers should serve under contract and choose where they serve themselves.

As for conscripts, their choice is restricted by the uneven distribution of military units. The closer a young soldier is to his home, the more contact he has with his family, while military offices prefer to send them further away.

Recruits should serve within easy traveling distance of their families, and not have to fork out money for tickets, Melnikova told Izvestia.

The territorial principle was introduced in 2008 at the same time as the length of service was cut to one year. Currently draftees can serve only in their own or neighboring region where there is a shared administrative frontier.


Kazakhstan May Suspend Import of Russian Petroleum Products

Kazakhstan’s plan to suspend Russian petrochemical imports may strain relations further, adding to the ongoing dispute over the Baikonur space center.

Officials in Kazakhstan are considering two options. One is a complete ban on importing Russia’s high-octane car fuel for six months, and the other, a “quantitative restriction” for the same period. State-controlled Kazmunaigaz will get monopoly status over Russian imports. The Kazakh government also proposed using its reserve funds to “alleviate the potential negative financial consequences” of the move.

First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov is to meet with Kazakh Deputy Prime Minister Kairat Kalimbetov in Moscow on Wednesday.

A source in Shuvalov’s office confirmed that they plan to discuss energy cooperation.

Kazakhstan is struggling with a shortage of petroleum products due to the ongoing modernization of its largest refineries in Pavlodar and Chimkent. Last year, Russia exported 1.3 million metric tons (roughly 9.56 million bbl) duty-free under the Customs Union agreement which requires Kazakhstan to supply crude oil in exchange. Kazakhstan is planning to ratify a procedure for calculating the required amount of oil to be supplied, putting it at 1.2-1.5 million tons (11 million bbl) for last year, at a discount from the price of supplies to other countries.

This could have an impact on the country’s revenues, Oil and Gas Minister Sauat Mynbayev said. As a result, Kazakhstan will have to boost its tolling operations with China to 500,000-600,000 tons. However, Russian imports cannot be fully replaced at this stage, he admitted.

Sources in Russia’s Energy Ministry do not think that Kazakhstan will benefit from the import ban because the country cannot cover its domestic demand.

Russia’s Gazprom Neft is the largest supplier of oil products to Kazakhstan through a chain of 40 gas stations. In 2012, the company supplied 550,000 tons of light products. The rest is supplied by independent traders. When contacted by this paper, sources in Gazprom Neft said they did were not aware of any import restrictions.

The import conflict may further strain relations between Russia and Kazakhstan. Until recently, the Baikonur space center dispute was a key stumbling block. Tensions escalated in early December, after head of the Kazakh space agency Talgat Musabayev revealed plans to reduce the number of Russian launches, claiming that Russia had reneged on the agreement on the new Baiterek space center. This provoked a harsh response in Russia.

Russian analysts do not see this as a serious crisis in relations. Kazakhstan is clearly angling for a rise in Russia’s lease for the Baikonur facilities, said Alexander Karavayev, deputy head of the Center for Post-Soviet Studies at Moscow University.

Kazakhstan’s new energy initiatives could have been prompted by lobby groups in the Kazakh government that advocate greater cooperation with China. But this is broadly in line with Kazakhstan’s Eurasian policy, Karavayev said. Kazakhstan is still interested in deeper integration with Russia, but routine disputes over profits are inevitable.

This is an abridged version of the article that appeared in full in Kommersant.

RIA Novosti is not responsible for the content of outside sources.

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