Nur al-Cubicle

A blog on the current crises in the Middle East and news accounts unpublished by the US press. Daily timeline of events in Iraq as collected from stories and dispatches in the French and Italian media: Le Monde (Paris), Il Corriere della Sera (Milan), La Repubblica (Rome), L'Orient-Le Jour (Beirut) and occasionally from El Mundo (Madrid).

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Gas War

You have to wonder if Cheney has thrombosis in his cortex to be blabbing about war with Iran and high-fiving $100 per barrel oil. Well, gee, what if Dubya's new pals in Ukraine and Georgia were cut off from Russian natural gas and electric power in the middle of the coldest temperatures in 65 years and had to purchase energy from Iran?

No one knows if the blasts leaving Georgia and Armenia in the dark were caused by Ossetian nationalists, Islamists, Russian agents, Georgian ultra-nationalists, Pasdaran or Chechens. Your guess is a good as mine.

BTW, here's a Map

APF via LeMonde has the story:

The Gas War shifts from the Ukraine to the Southern Caucasus. After Sunday’s dual blasts on the Russian gas pipeline supplying Georgia and Armenia, Russia curtailed its deliveries, provoking the ire of T’bilisi. The explanation received from the Russians is absolutely inadequate and contradictory (…). Georgia has been the victim of sabotage carried out by the Russian Federation.”, declared Georgia’s pro-Western president, Saakachvili, steaming over the near doubling of gas prices imposed by Moscow for ex-Soviet republics hoping to exit the Russian sphere of influence. The Georgian president, elected in 2004, excoriated Russia for blackmail, which followed the “threats by Russian politicians to leave us without power and gas”.

“Judging from press accounts, the statements coming from T’bilisi can only be qualified as hysterical”, said the Russian Foreign Minister in a communiqué quoted by the Russian news agency Ria-Novosti. According to Moscow, “practically all high-ranking Georgian officials have seen in this situation the possibility for a new wave of aggression in its anti-Russian campaign”. Meanwhile, a third explosion damaged an important transmission line carrying Russian electricity to Georgia, depriving it of power.


The Russian Minister for Emergencies announced that two explosions had rocked the main line and a secondary branch on the Mozdok-T'bilisi natural gas pipeline in North Ossetia before dawn, not far from the Georgian frontier. “According to initial reports, experts discovered fragments of a home-made explosive device. If this is confirmed, then it was an act of sabotage”, declared Sergei Prokopov, spokesman for the Public Prosecutor for the Russian Caucasus. The Minister for Emergencies, speaking from Vladikavkaz, has suggested “terrorism, among other possible causes". The minister had at first suggested that "an accident" had dramatically dropped line pressure, forcing the Russian utility to close all valves. Repair of the gas pipeline may take several days due to bad weather conditions in the Caucasus Mountains.

While the dual blast is likely to severely affect Armenia and Georgia, extremely dependent on Russian gas and going through a particularly sharp cold wave, a third blast several hours later in the Caucasian republic of Karachay-Cherkcassia brought down a power transmission line on the Georgian border. The country continues to receive Russian power via another high-voltage transmission line, said Georgian Deputy Energy Minister Aleko Khetagurov, while suggesting the possibility of an immediate import of power from Turkey. The Russian electric power utility announced that repairs would take at least a week.


The Armenian and Georgian authorities have cautioned their citizens to conserve heat. “There is enough gas for 24 hours. Talks are underway to purchase gas from Azerbaijan and Iran, but that will take a few days,” warned the Georgian Vice-Minister for Energy in a television broadcast. In Armenia, the gas utility Armrosgazprom was obliged to release its gas reserves and called on the population to conserve energy “and, if necessary, to use other means of heat”.

Armenian President Robert Kotcharian, reputedly an ally of Moscow, was expected in Russia on Sunday for talks with Vladimir Putin on the big hikes in the price of gas recently imposed by Moscow.