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#Putin blames #EU as #Russia abandons plans for South Stream gas pipeline


Putin says EU’s opposition scuppered project but Russian leader outlines plan to pump more gas to Turkey on visit to Ankara.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin, left, and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, at the controversial new palace in Ankara.Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, left, and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, at the controversial new palace in Ankara. Photograph: Ria Novosti/Reuters

Shaun Walker in Moscow and agencies, The Guardian.

Russia has dropped plans for a pipeline to send gas to Europe, President Vladimir Putin announced on Monday, blaming the European Union for stalling the project.

Putin, speaking during a visit to Turkey, said the South Stream pipeline, which Russian officials have hailed for years as an important step towards improving European energy security, was over.

“We see that obstacles are being set up to prevent its fulfilment,” said Putin, speaking at a joint news conference with the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. “If Europe does not want to carry it out, then it will not be carried out.”

The pipeline, along with the North Stream pipeline that carries gas to Germany through the Baltic Sea, was meant to bypass Ukraine. Mikhail Krutikhin, a Russian energy analyst, said: “From the beginning this was a political project, and the goal was to punish Ukraine and cut it off from gas flows. It was never economical to spend so much on this pipeline.”

However, Moscow will boost increase gas supplies to Turkey and Putin said that instead of South Stream, a new hub could be built on the Turkish-Greek border to supply Europe with gas. He also issued a thinly veiled threat to Europe, hinting that since concluding a massive, long-term gas deal with China earlier this year, the European market was no longer that important for Russia, after a year during which the Kremlin has been targeted by western capitals for its role in Ukraine.

“We will re-concentrate our energy resources on other regions of the world,” said Putin. “We will work with other markets and Europe will not receive this gas, at least not from Russia.

“We think this is against Europe’s economic interests and is causing damage to our cooperation.”

Construction had already started on sections of the pipeline, which was due to carry its first gas at the end of next year. The pipeline was meant to take Russian gas across the Black Sea to southern Europe, via Bulgaria, but the European commission has said the pipeline needs to conform to European competition rules, and has put pressure on Bulgaria not to back the project in its current form.

“My Bulgarian partners would always say that whatever happens, South Stream will go ahead, because it is in the Bulgarian national interest,” said Putin.

“If Bulgaria is deprived of the possibility of behaving like a sovereign state, let them demand the money for the lost profit from the European commission,” he said.

Putin met his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, amid striking differences over the crises in Syria and Ukraine, but the leaders focused instead on their countries’ booming economic and trade ties. The Russian leader arrived in Turkey accompanied by a large delegation, including 10 ministers.

The two countries, which are major trading partners, have set an aim of increasing their two-way trade volume from £21bn ($33bn) to £64bn by 2020. Russia provides the bulk of Turkey’s gas and is set to build Turkey’s first nuclear power plant. Turkish construction firms are active in Russia, while millions of Russian tourists travel to Turkey each year.

A description of the project on Gazprom’s website said South Stream was “another step in Gazprom’s strategy to diversify the supply routes for Russian natural gas” and would “significantly improve the energy security of the whole European continent”.

But after Putin’s announcement in Ankara, Gazprom’s chief executive, Alexei Miller, confirmed that the plug had been pulled on South Stream. “The project is closed. This is it,” he told reporters.

Russia’s economy, which is heavily dependent on the export of oil and gas, has been struggling in recent weeks as tumbling oil prices combine with the effects of western sanctions to stoke fears and send the rouble tumbling. On Monday the currency hit new historical lows.

The Russian and Turkish leaders, often compared to each other for their drift toward authoritarianism, have opposing positions on Syria’s crisis, but were expected to set their differences aside during their meeting at Erdoğan’s new mega-palace, which has been strongly criticised by Turkish opposition parties, environmentalists and activists, who say the 1,000-room complex is too costly and extravagant.

Russia remains the closest ally of the Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey supports Syria’s opposition forces. Turkey has also been a strong advocate of the Tatar community in the Crimean peninsula annexed by Russia and has publicly supported Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Barred from Crimea by Russian authorities, Tatar leaders, who strongly opposed the annexation, are feted in Turkey. On a visit just a month after the annexation, Mustafa Dzhemilev, a Soviet-era Tatar dissident, was given Turkey’s highest award.


The Guardian.

#Chernobyl’s eerie desolation revealed by camera mounted on drone (Video)


British documentary maker Danny Cooke’s video Postcards from Pripyat, is first time area has been filmed from the air.

Dodgem cars at the abandoned Pripyat amusement park near Chernobyl. Photograph: Timothy Swope/AlamyDodgem cars at the abandoned Pripyat amusement park near Chernobyl. Photograph: Timothy Swope/Alamy.

Chris Johnston, The Guardian.

A camera mounted on a drone has revealed the eerie post-apocalyptic landscape of a town abandoned after the nuclear power station at Chernobyl exploded nearly three decades ago.

The British documentary maker Danny Cooke has travelled to Pripyat, just a few miles from the power plant, which was once home to 50,000 people. It was evacuated soon after the disaster on 26 April 1986 that killed 31 people and sent large quantities of radioactive particles into the atmosphere over the western part of the then Soviet Union and Europe as far as away Wales.

His video, Postcards from Pripyat, Chernobyl, marks the first time the area has been seen from the air. He shot the footage while working on a segment for US current affairs programme 60 Minutes on CBS, which was broadcast last week.

Cooke’s haunting three-minute film shows sights such as a Ferris wheel in an amusement park quietly rusting away. The park had been due to open for the first time just days after the disaster. The sun is shining as the wind rustles the lush vegetation that is slowly taking over the decaying buildings and facilities.

The Devon-based film-maker also sent the drone into a crumbling indoor swimming pool and over factories and apartment buildings where the only sign of life is the weeds growing on the roof.

“Chernobyl is one of the most interesting and dangerous places I’ve been,” Cooke said. “There was something serene, yet highly disturbing about this place. Time has stood still and there are memories of past happenings floating around us.”

It is not until the drone is sent rising above the treetops that viewers can see the vast dome being built to place over the damaged reactor.

There is still so much radiation spewing from it that the 1,400 workers are building the 20,000-tonne steel structure nearby, shielded from the radiation by a huge concrete wall. When the 190m-high dome is finished it will be inched into place and sealed over the defunct power plant.

Funding for the project of almost £500m was pledged by 28 countries including Britain in 2011, but it has faced a series of delays following the conflict in Ukraine.

Despite the 20-mile exclusion zone around Chernobyl, some former residents returned to the area and it has also become something of a nature reserve and an attraction for a certain type of tourist.

Cooke used a DJI Phantom 2 drone and a Canon 7D on his shoot.


The Guardian.

#Putin says #Russia prepared for oil price collapse as more sanctions threatened


At G20 summit, Russian president says he regards sanctions over Ukraine as pointless, illegal and likely to harm world trade.

The Dangerous Mr. PutinVladimir Putin, the Russian president. Photograph: AFP / Getty Images.

Patrick Wintour, political editor for The Guardian.

Vladimir Putin has admitted for the first time that he is prepared for his country to face a “catastrophic” slump in oil prices, as David Cameron said Europe would have no choice but to step up sanctions if the Russian president did not abide by previous agreements to respect Ukraine’s independence.

Putin was speaking before a bilateral meeting with Cameron on the margins of the G20 summit in Brisbane. The meeting is likely to be a bruising affair, especially after the British prime minister likened Russia to Nazi Germany, saying Europe had learned lessons from history about how a big country could bully others.

Putin said Russia’s economy had the reserves to withstand a collapse in oil revenues, but added: “We are considering all the scenarios including the so-called catastrophic fall of prices for energy resources, which is entirely possible and we admit it.”

He said he regarded sanctions as pointless, illegal and likely to harm not just Russian but world trade. “This contradicts international law because sanctions can only be imposed within the framework of the United Nations and its security council.”

He claimed that as many as 300,000 German jobs could be at risk if there were no contracts with Russia. Putin is also due to see Angela Merkel at the summit.

The Russian economy is forecast by its central bank to run zero growth next year, and the value of the rouble has fallen. Russia gets half its total budget revenue from oil and natural gas taxes.

British government sources are increasingly confident that sanctions limiting the ability of Russian banks to raise capital are taking their toll. Britain has been urging the Russians to stand by a ceasefire agreement signed in Minsk in September and to stop sending Russian material and arms across the border to rebel-held regions of Ukraine.

Cameron told reporters: “It’s possible to stand by the Minsk agreement. It’s not a perfect agreement from anyone’s point of view, but it has some key parts to it, about Russian troops and about borders and about respecting Ukraine’s sovereignty. I think there’s a very clear choice for Russia of which path it takes. If it takes the Minsk path we could progressively see normalisation of relations between Russia and Ukraine, you could see Ukraine’s sovereignty and elections respected, you could see the removal of sanctions if that were to happen.

“But the other path of not respecting the Minsk agreement, continuing to undermine Ukrainian sovereignty, continuing to see Russian troops in Ukraine and Russian tanks and the rest of it – I don’t think Europe would have a choice but to maintain the sanctions we have, to start looking at further measures that could be taken if Russia takes further steps, and to putting relationships between European countries and Russia on a very different basis.”

Earlier, Cameron said: “We have to be clear what we are dealing with here is a large state bullying a smaller state. We have seen the consequences of that in the past and we should learn the lessons of history and make sure we do not let it happen again. I don’t think there is a military solution to this, but the sanctions have had some effect. You can see that in what has happened to the Russian rouble, what has happened to the Russian stock market and the difficulty the Russian banks have in gaining finance.”

The Australian prime minister and G20 host, Tony Abbott, has been at the forefront of the criticism of Putin. It is thought that 38 Australians were among the 298 people killed on flight MH17, the civilian plane shot down over Ukraine in July. Such is the anger in Australia that there were protests against Putin outside his hotel in Brisbane.

Australia sent three ships to its northern coast after a flotilla of Russian navy vessels appeared there this week.

Abbott said: “It is our clear understanding on the evidence so far this plane was clearly shot down by Russian-backed rebels most likely using Russian-supplied equipment. I think there is heavy responsibility on Russia to come clean and to atone.

“It is part of a regrettable pattern, whether it is the bullying of Ukraine, the increasing number of Russian military aircraft flying into the airspace of Japan, European countries or the task group in the South Pacific. Russia would be so much more attractive if it was aspiring to be a superpower for peace and freedom and prosperity, if it were trying to be a superpower for ideas and values, instead of trying to recreate the lost glories of tsarism or the old Soviet Union.”

The two summits in Brisbane ending on Sunday had originally been intended by Australia to focus on job creation, improved growth and unblocking barriers to trade deals between the US and EU.

The issue of climate change given a new momentum by the China-US deal is also likely to feature as Australia battle to keep the agenda manageable.

But the Australians are also keen to pick up initiatives to clamp down on corporate tax avoidance by shaking up a creaking international tax system that is unfit to tackle multinationals capable of shifting profits to low-tax jurisdictions.

Cameron made tax transparency a big theme of the British G8 presidency last year and said on Friday that 90 countries had now agreed to cooperate on sharing tax information in line with guidelines set out by the OECD, the international body charged with modernising the international tax system.

He added he “damn well expected” companies to pay corporation tax in full in the UK adding the conversation and culture was changing in boardrooms worldwide as executives realised they had to run defensible policies on paying tax.

Cameron believes the culture change is being driven by popular anger directed at companies caught avoiding taxes, but also by unprecedented levels of cooperation between tax jurisdictions threatening to expose the way company accountants try to transfer profits to low-tax jurisdictions.

But Cameron held off from directly criticising the new European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, over claims that he had for decades overseen a regime as Luxembourg prime minister designed to lure companies to base operations in the low-tax country.

Cameron has tried to block Juncker’s appointment as Commission President in the summer, largely due to his federalist views, but faced by other battles on the European stage Cameron refused to directly join the call for Juncker to quit after it had been shown he had designed an effective tax haven in Luxembourg in the centre of Europe.

Cameron may feel as he prepares for potential renegotiations over Britain’s relationship with the EU that he cannot afford to confront Juncker, preferring instead to stress the moral case for companies to pay tax .

The Juncker assault had been given new impetus by a leak of a mass of documents showing the scale of the tax avoidance practised in Luxembourg at a time when Juncker had been prime minister.

Cameron said: “We have a very strong moral case to make now. When you have a 20% corporation tax rate, we damn well expect you to pay it. The culture is changing across the boardrooms round the world – they are having a lot of discussions about whether their strategy over tax is responsible and defensible.”


The Guardian.

#ISIS Grand Plan: New Map Shows Hardliners’ Desire to Annex Major Parts of World


ISIS Map of the worldISIS Map of the world

Gopi Chandra Kharel reporting,

The Islamic State militants have drawn up a new map that shows the areas of the world that they seek to ultimately capture and control under its so-called ‘caliphate’. The map shows the hardliners’ chilling desire to annex major parts of the world, including all Arab countries, almost half of all African countries, many countries in Europe including Spain, and about 25% of Asia.

The Iraqi News has compiled the names of countries and areas that the ISIS planned to annex and announced the same via some Jihadist websites. These include: the Levant, Hijaz, Yemen, Khorasan, Kurdistan, the Caucasus, Anatolia, Europe, Andalusia, Abyssinia, and Maghreb.

The deadly Sunni Militant outfit also noted that the map of the Islamic ‘caliphate’ contains the division of the captured lands into several states (Emirates) with each state having a group of countries. For instance, the ‘state’ of Iraq would contain both Iraq and Kuwait, the extremist organisation claimed.

Similarly, the state of the ‘Levant’ would purportedly include Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan and the Sinai, while the state of the Hijaz will have Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman. According to Iraqi News, the militants claimed the state of Yemen would remain unchanged and the state of Khorasan will have countries like Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and the Indian subcontinent.

The group made similar announcement back in the beginning of July after they formally declared the establishment of a caliphate, or ‘Islamic State’ in the vast stretches of the Middle East.

The extremist group, that has left much of the Western countries in horror with its crimes, have demanded allegiance from Muslims around the world while also recruiting new members from Western world who have lately fallen prey to the hypnotic luring of the dreaded organisation, who often try to attract people to join their cause by making promises of obscure things like ’72 eternal virgins in heaven’.


International Business Times.

Russia, Ukraine reach compromise over gas price and debt, Oettinger says | #Ukraine #Gazprom


by Anastasia Forina.
European Union Commissioner for Energy German Guenther Oettinger speaks during a press conference after talks on energy security with Russian Energy and Ukrainian Energy Minister on Sept. 26 in Berlin.European Union Commissioner for Energy German Guenther Oettinger speaks during a press conference after talks on energy security with Russian Energy and Ukrainian Energy Minister on Sept. 26 in Berlin. Russia warned Europe on Friday that Moscow could cut off its gas supplies because some European countries have been re-exporting gas to Ukraine to help Kiev through its latest energy war with Moscow. AFP PHOTO / ODD ANDERSEN © AFP

After a number of unsuccessful negotiations, Ukraine and Russia finally reached compromise at the talks with the European Union in Berlin on Sept.26. 

According to the preliminary agreement, Ukraine will have to repay $2.1 billion to Russian Gazprom in October and another $1.1 billion by the year end while the price for gas will stay at $385 per 1,000 cubic meters, Energy Commissioner of the European Union Gunther Oettinger said at the press-conference after the talks, Interfax-Ukraine news agency reported. Oettinger also expressed high hopes for the agreement to be formalized soon by the governments of Ukraine and Russia.

“By the end of next week we can have a binding protocol,” Oettinger was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s minister of Energy and Coal Industry Yuri Prodan said that Ukraine is not happy with the way the price for Russian gas is formed. “This must be a commercial price, which is not dependent on the decisions of the Russian government,” Prodan said, according to Interfax-Ukraine.

Timothy Ash, senior analyst of emerging markets for Standard Bank in London is also skeptical about the deal.

“Its kind of interesting to see Oettinger eager to announce a gas deal, before an agreement has actually been signed and sealed – clearly the Europeans are desperate for Ukraine to accept almost anything so that West Europeans don’t freeze this winter,” Ash said in his note on gas talks.

Earlier today, just ahead of talks Russian energy minister Alexander Novak has warned EU states which reverse gas to Ukraine about cut-offs by saying that the contracts don’t foresee re-export.

The warning came after Hungary halted its reverse gas flows to Ukraine on Sept.25 citing technical difficulties.  Earlier in September Poland also suspended gas imports to Ukraine. Russia cut gas flow to Poland by 45 percent and to Slovakia by 10 percent in September. Slovakia hasn’t stopped reverse supplies to Ukraine, so far.

Import of gas from Poland, Hungary and Slovakia already saved Ukraine $500 million during three months, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk announced at the United Nations General Assembly meeting  in New York on Sept 25. To survive during the heating season Ukraine needs around 33 billion cubic meters of gas. The country already has around 17 billion cubic meters of gas in underground storage and hopes to get up to 15 billion cubic meters of gas from the EU out of 25 billion it used to get from Russia.

If Russia stops gas supplies to EU countries, it can lead to price hikes on EU market and make it unreasonable for Ukraine to reverse gas from Europe, even in comparison with Russian gas, Oleksandr Narbut, president of the Kyiv Institute of Energy Studies told the Kyiv Post.

Russia raised its gas price for Ukraine in April to $485.50 per 1,000 cubic meters from $268.50 and in June suspened its gas flow to Ukraine after Ukraine stopped buying. In response to that Gazprom filed suit to Stokholm arbitration court over Ukraine’s 4.5 billion debt for gas. Ukraine also appealed to the court against Russia for making it overpaying for gas since 2010.

While, it may take up to a yer to get the decision from arbitration court, Oettinger suggested Ukraine repay Gazprom $3.1 billion without waiting for arbitrage decision. Yatsenyuk, however said the arbitrage court decision is important for Ukraine’s gas talks with Russia.

“I won’t make any comments before the agreement is put on paper. But I want to stress that Ukraine will under no circumstances recall its suit from the Stockholm Arbitration Court,” Yatsenyuk said on Sept.26, according to Interfax-Ukraine.

(Kyiv Post staff writer Anastasia Forina can be reached at forina@kyivpost.com).


Kyiv Post.

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