In response to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's tour of the treasures of the Reich, Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) presented her with the treasures of Russian natural resources.
Photo: Dmitry Azarov
Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel Work Together
Russian President Vladimir Putin met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday at Dresden's Green Vault Museum. He assessed Anna Politkovskaya's place in Russian life and told Kommersant special correspondent Andrey Kolesnikov why Gazprom rejected all foreign partners in the Stockman deposit.
People began gathering outside the museum with rolled up banners about an hour before the negotiations were scheduled to begin. I asked one man to show me his banner. It was a request to Putin to return the man's son, who disappeared in 1984. I asked how Putin was involved.
“That was 1984,” the man sighed. “Mr. Putin worked in Soviet intelligence and lived in Dresden at the time.”
“You're suggesting that he was involved in that kidnapping?” I asked.
“All other possibilities have already been explored,” he replied.
He unfurled his banner when the Russian president arrived. Near him, a youth held a smaller sign that said “Murderer.” The youth shouted that same thing very loudly. The president could not have but heard him.
Putin was joined by Merkel and they entered the museum together and hurriedly walked through its exhibits of the Reich's gold and jewels. Merkel looked ill at ease. In the fourth hall, the most lavish we had seen so far, a buffet table was set up.
Five people from each side took part in the negotiations. As they proceeded behind closed doors, general director of Lentransgaz and president of the Zenith soccer club Sergey Fursenko was standing in for Gazprom head Alexey Miller, who had not come to Germany. Fursenko told journalists on the second floor why Gazprom was spending tens of millions of euros to support the German soccer club Schalke 04, which had fallen on hard times. In essence, it was because that is the team miners like. Gazprom's logo will appear on Schalke 04 uniforms.
Then the discussion turned to the Stockman deposit, and Miller's press secretary Sergey Kupriyanov spoke up. “Well,” he said, commenting with a shrug on the company's rejection of all foreign partners for the deposit's development, “their offers were significantly lower than what a barrel of oil now sells for… that is, cubic meters of gas… Can you imagine how much gas is there? No matter what they offered us, they couldn't make a good offer for that volume!”
“Are your partners in shock?”
“Shock? Well, it's business. We didn't say that we will be alone at the deposit. Gazprom will work with foreign partners on service contracts, that is, we will pay them with dollars and not with shares in the deposit.”
Kurpiyanov did not specify what foreign companies would be working under those service contracts. He went on to say that the overwhelming majority of the gas would go to Europe through the North European Gas Pipeline in the first phase of the project, but the liquefied may be supplied to the United States as well. He spoke in light tones about the project's financing and geological exploration going on there, obviously trying to create the impression that the rejection of foreign partners was an easy one for the company. Of course, it was easy for the company, since it wasn't the company's decision.
Then the one who had made that decision came out, accompanied by the German chancellor.
Merkel began by expressing her shock at the recent murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya in Moscow. “The Russian president has promised me that everything possible will be done to solve that murder,” she added.
Putin also commented on the murder. “Whoever committed that murder,” he said in what sounded like a statement prepared in advance, “and whatever motivated it, we should acknowledge that the crime was abominable in its cruelty.” Politkovskaya was a critic of the authorities, he noted, and her influence should not be overestimated. “It was minimal,” he concluded. “She was known among journalists and in human rights circles and in the West, but I repeat that she had no influence on political life. Her murder causes much more harm than her publications did. Whoever did it will be punished.”
Two hours later, at the session of the St. Petersburg Dialog, the subject arose again. “Those people who are hiding from Russian justice are willing to sacrifice anyone to create a wave of anti-Russian feeling,” Putin said.
Then the two leaders turned to what really interested them, the Stockman deposit.
“Germany is the main consumer of our resources,” Putin said. “We supply about 40 billion cubic meters of gas here. If we implement the Stockman project and if part of that gas, and there is about 4 trillion cubic meters total [that figure was 300 billion cu. m. greater than what Kupriyanov has stated], goes to Europe, as Madame Chancellor has requested, Germany will receive an additional 50-55 billion cubic meters in addition to that 40 billion. That means that it will become the largest distributor in Europe.”
As the two leaders were heading toward the exit at the end of the press conference, I asked in a shout why Gazprom had refused its foreign partners. Putin stopped, whispered to Merkel and returned readily to the microphone.
“Gazprom analyzed the proposals,” he answered. “It was the exchange of assets and not the attraction of investments that interested our company. But no one could offer the volume of assets appropriate for participation in the development of the deposit.” He added, as Gazprom representatives had, that it was still possible that those companies would participate in the development of the deposit, just not on a share basis.
In other word, “Thanks, we'll call you back.”
All the Article in Russian as of Oct. 11, 2006