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May 15, 2008
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Vladimir Putin Opens a New Terminal
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin took part yesterday in the opening of a new oil terminal in Primorsk, personally filling the first tanker. He determined the final point of the second line of the Baltic Pipeline System and offered oil companies tax cuts. Kommersant special correspondent Andrey Kolesnikov reports that, after spending the entire day on oil, Putin devoted the evening to natural gas the Gazprom subsidiarys battle for the UEFA Cup.
In Primorsk, Leningrad Region, where the opening of a new oil terminal was supposed to take place, there was only a single federal official, Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, on hand half an hour before the event was to start. He was as open to journalists that morning as he was usually closed, that is, completely. He answered questions patiently and in a low voice, looking upward as he spoke.

What are my tasks as deputy prime minister? The prime minister assigns the deputy prime minister his tasks.

When asked if a second line of the Baltic Pipeline System (Transneft prepared the proposal and the decision on it was to be made before the end of last year. There was a question about whether the second line would lead to Primorsk or Ust-Luga.), Sechin suggested waiting until we got to Ust-Luga, where the prime minister was supposed to fly into. There, he thought, Putin would announce that decision. It was not hard to guess the decision from the place of its disclosure.

When I asked if the rumors about the replacement of United Shipbuilding Corp. head Yury Yarov were true, Sechin answered, Yury Fedorovich is a very experienced person. There is no need to rattle a sword in such questions.

That is, Sechin conversed readily with journalists, and even made the impression that he was talkative. But when the journalists from information agencies started to think about what to turn in for the news feed, they realized that the news boiled down to a single phrase: Igor Sechin spoke to reporters.

Sechin answered one question more loudly than all the others. He was asked if he, as deputy prime minister responsible for energy, would take into consideration Lithuanias demands that supplies of Russian oil to the Mazeikiai oil refinery be restored.

What kind of demands can they make of us? he replied. The market is the market! Theres the terminal. He waved his hand in the direction of the bay. Let them buy it! Theres a tanker loaded with 47,000 tons

Where is the tanker going?

The goods dont have a buyer yet, Sechin replied, returning to his low voice. But it can be assumed, considering where we are located, that it may be Holland

The ministers were waiting for the event to start in the naval special units building. There were Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov, Transport Minister Igor Levitin, Russian Railways president Vladimir Yakunin, presidential representative for the Northwestern Federal District Ilya Klebanov Meanwhile, Putin was in the control room. He double clicked on the left button of the mouse and the tanker began to fill with diesel fuel. I think it was the most life-confirming event he had taken part in for weeks.

Putin stated at the opening that project such as these urge domestic companies toward deep refining and diversification of export routes for Russian oil. The triumphant moment of the event was when Putin explained the reason for the building of the new terminals at Ust-Luga and Primorsk. If the modernization of the corresponding Russian refineries is completed on time, he said, Kirishskoe, on the lower Volga and in Tatarstan, there is a full chance of expanding transfer capacity, in particular, at this terminal [in Primorsk] to 24 million tons. That means exports that we transfer in the Baltic countries today will be rechanneled to Russian ports. I am counting on that happening in the near future.

The Ministers reacted to the prime ministers every word. Now he was even dearer to them than before. He had been their direct boss for several days, and they behaved themselves even more stiffly than they had at the Monday meetings with Putin at the Kremlin.

Kommersant has learned that Putin will continue holding those meetings as prime minister, and still on Mondays, but in government headquarters now. He will meet with the deputy prime ministers and the key ministers, that is, about the same people as always. There will no longer be meetings with all the members of the government on Thursdays. The full government will meet once a month now. The first such meeting took place today.

The prime minister flew to the southern shore of the Gulf of Finland, to Ust-Luga, in a helicopter. He began his meeting there by saying what Sechin promised: The second line of the Baltic Pipeline System will end at Ust-Luga.

Here Putin announced that it was necessary to lower the tax rate for mineral production, that a draft law was already written and considered by the government and it has to be introduced into the parliament as soon as possible. In addition, he said that companies that are exploring for new deposits need a tax vacation.

Seven years, he said, is normal for such vacations.

Companies working mainly in the Timano-Pechora basin, on the Yamal Peninsula and on the continental shelf struck it lucky.

The meeting in Ust-Luga was short. Afterwards, Putin, who had flown in wearing a beige windbreaker and light brown shoes, met with journalists wearing a black suit. He had changed his clothes in the helicopter while flying between Primorsk and Ust-Luga. Apparently, he was preparing ahead of time to appear before the judges of the Supreme Court in St. Petersburg several hours later.

The prime minister told journalists that there would be no problem with the load for the second line of the Baltic Pipeline System. Thirty million tons of crude oil would be needed and 18-20 million tons of petroleum products. Nonetheless, it was clear that he was not completely sure of that, since he added that Russias partners could use the pipelines capacity too.

Moreover, he added that the foreign partners could be shareholders in the second line. (He was probably not talking about the Baltic countries, which are about that much short of Russian oil, but more likely about Kazakhstan.)

Ust-Luga was chosen, it turns out, in large part, because that route does not require additional channels under the Neva River.

Finally, Putin said that, after he returns to St. Petersburg and sees the Supreme Court judges, he will watch the UEFA Cup final between St. Petersburg Zenith and Glasgow Rangers.

He never quits.
Andrey Kolesnikov

All the Article in Russian as of May 15, 2008

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