Posts Tagged ‘Gazprom’

And Quiet Flaws the Don

July 17, 2017

“… don’t you think there’s something in this business deal that doesn’t quite conform to the code of civil law and the future prosperity of Russia?”
Gospodin Manilov


Ring of Fire

September 26, 2013

For the moment, forget about those manufactured media sideshows cluttering the minds of the Beltway blitherati – U.S. budget lockdown, Syrian chemical weapons, playing nice with President Rowhani.  Far better to focus your attention on the infotainment value reliably provided by Comrade Bear whenever the “official” narrative becomes too, too predictable.  In a nutshell, on the surface, here’s the message: in Russia, the only political publicity stunts permitted are those of Comrade Bear himself.  So when Greenpeace trespasses on the Gazprom Ocean, “it is absolutely obvious that they are not pirates, [but] they tried to seize the oil platform,” broke Russian and international law, and these crimes must be investigated.  Port of call: Murmansk.


Comrade Bear once again displayed his trademark deadpan invocation of a hypothetical, potential terrorist threat to justify nearly any forceful response by the organs of public order and security:

The Coast Guard “didn’t know who was trying to seize the platform under the guise of Greenpeace.  Especially in view of the events in Kenya, really, anything can happen,” he said. … Environmentalists viewed Putin’s comments as a conciliatory move.

Luckily, Comrade Bear was in a magnanimous mood on that particular Wednesday … although the specific reason why is a matter of some debate:

In an interview with the Izvestia daily, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov directly responded to chatter on the Internet that Putin [last] weekend married gymnast Alina Kabayeva at a secret ceremony at the Iversky Monastery on Lake Valdai in northern Russia where the president had been attending a discussion forum.  “This is all from the realm of the imagination and it is useless to deny these (rumors) or call them rubbish. We have done this already a hundred times,” Peskov said. “The rumors stay alive, what can you do about them? But they have nothing in common with reality,” he added.  The rumor had been started by a former government official in the Caucasus who tweeted that he had been told Putin had married Kabayeva at the monastery, which had been [closed] to the public.
“Why the monastery was [closed] off, I cannot tell you,” added Peskov.

Back when he still wore a wedding band.

Back when he still wore a wedding band.

Lunghu wouldn’t marry her either: among European Olympians, he prefers German rowers to Russian gymnasts. But lest we be too hasty in dismissing the mere possibility of this heavenly love match, let’s review some relevant aspects of matrimonial customs in the Orthodox Church:

A wedding ring is a metal ring indicating that the wearer is married. In Eastern Orthodox tradition the wedding ring is worn on the right hand rather than the left.  Among Eastern Orthodox Christians, the exchange of rings is not technically part of the wedding service, rather they are exchanged at the betrothal … The actual symbolic act of marriage is not the exchange of rings, but the public exchange of wedding vows.  In the Eastern Orthodox Service of Betrothal, the Priest makes the Sign of the Cross with rings over the bridegroom’s head while saying three times “The servant of God (Groom) is betrothed to the handmaid of God (Bride), in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen”. This is then followed by another three times over the bride’s head with the names reversed, after which the rings are exchanged three times (either by the priest or by the best man).

Let’s take a closer look, invoking the spirit of former President Bill Clinton to parse the literal (translated) words of Dimi Peskov:

  • “Whether he has a wife or not, let us leave that to him and not interfere,” Peskov said.
  • “This [wedding story] is all from the realm of the imagination and [has] nothing in common with reality,” he added.
  • “Why the monastery was [closed] off, I cannot tell you,” added Peskov.
  1. Peskov isn’t saying Putin is married, and he isn’t saying he’s not.
  2. Peskov states that a Putin wedding did not occur at the Iversky Monastery.
  3. Peskov says that he can’t tell you why the monastery was closed to the public, not that he doesn’t know.

Iversky Monastery

All these statements can be literally true, and Dimi Peskov can remain a truthful spokesman, if the Iversky Monastery was closed for an Orthodox betrothal ceremony (the exchange of rings), instead of an actual Orthodox wedding ( the public exchange of wedding vows). Congratulations are perhaps in order for Comrade Bear and Comrade Foxy: they’re not (yet?) married, but maybe they’re betrothed!  Best of all, from the point of view of those concerned:

The central and unifying feature of Orthodox monasticism is Hesychasm, the practice of silence.

Vlad is my Co-Pilot

September 6, 2012

These days some folks think there’s way too much media coverage of trivial, conventional American political posturing.  Well, there’s one man who is bold enough to do something about it.  That’s right:  Comrade Bear to the rescue!

Russian Prime Minister  President Putin stopped off at the Kushavet ornithological research station on the Yamal Peninsula in the Russian Arctic on Wednesday en route to [the APEC] summit in Vladivostok.  Once at the station, he met with a [hang glider] pilot, who sat behind him on [a motorized ultralight aircraft] to lead a flock of young Siberian white cranes in flight.  Dressed in a white [flight suit] meant to imitate an adult crane, Putin was taking part in a project to teach endangered birds who were raised in captivity to follow the aircraft on their southern migration to Central Asia.

Only one crane followed Putin on his first flight, which he attributed to high winds that caused the hang glider to travel faster than usual.   On the second flight, five birds followed Putin, but after a few circles only two had stuck with him for the full 15-minute flight.

Siberia.  Endangered species.  Raised in captivity.  Flight.  A leader with scant following. … So many deeply Russian themes, but so little poetry in the minds of the masses.

Those cranes may soon be migrating for a reason that has nothing to do with the onset of Siberian winter.

[While in Kushavet ] Russian President Vladimir Putin said he will chair a conference with oil and gas producers operating in the Yamal region.  Putin noted that Gazprom and NOVATEK were operating actively in the region. The state plans to create infrastructure for the operation of Russian companies. “Yamal is a very convenient place from the point of view of fuel transportation; there are good depths here to set up a large port to transport liquefied gas,” the president said.   Professor  Alexander Lobusev of Gubkin Oil and Gas University reported that the area was quite promising from the point of view of its oil and gas potential. “The initial aggregate reserves of gas make up 50 trillion cubic meters, the reserves of oil reach four billion tons, and the reserves of condensate are over three billion tons,” he said.

On the other hand, if the Arctic climate continues to warm, there may be no further need for Siberian cranes to migrate southward in winter.  Think of the time saved!  Perhaps the clever cranes could take up reading Russian literature instead of spending half their lives traveling.

At a meeting with United Russia members in Saratov on Wednesday, President Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said he has practically no free time for leisure, noting that he has to travel a lot to different regions and has a rather busy schedule. “But I like it,” he added.  [To pass time on the road] Medvedev said he has been reading Gogol’s “Dead Souls” lately. “This may surprise you,” he said, and admitted that he was “greatly enjoying Gogol’s style.”

Here’s a plot summary for all you Philistines and Chauvanists out there in the Lower 48:

First published in 1842, Dead Souls is widely regarded as an exemplar of 19th-century Russian literature. The title refers to the “dead souls” of Nikolai Gogol‘s characters, all of which visualize different aspects of poshlost (an untranslatable Russian word which is perhaps best rendered as “self-satisfied inferiority”, moral and spiritual, with overtones of middle-class pretentiousness, fake significance and philistinism).

The first part of the novel was intended to represent the Inferno of  [a contemporary] Divine Comedy.  Gogol revealed to his readers an encompassing picture of the ailing social system in Russia after the war of 1812.   The story follows the exploits of Chichikov, a gentleman of middling social class. Chichikov arrives in a small town and quickly tries to make a good name for himself by impressing the many petty officials of the town. Despite his limited funds, he spends extravagantly on the premise that a great show of wealth and power at the start will gain him the connections he needs to live easily in the future. He also hopes to befriend the town so that he can more easily carry out his bizarre and mysterious plan to acquire “dead souls.”

The Russian government taxed landowners on the basis of how many serfs (or “souls”) the landowner had on their records at the time of the collection. Landowners would often find themselves in the position of paying taxes on serfs that were no longer living, yet were registered on the census to them, thus they were paying tax for “dead souls.”  Chichikov seeks to purchase these dead souls from people in the village; he tells the landowners that he has a use for them, and that the sellers would be better off anyway, since selling them would relieve the present owners of a needless tax burden.  Chichikov’s macabre mission to acquire “dead souls” is actually just another complicated scheme to inflate his social standing . He plans to collect the legal ownership rights to dead serfs as a way of inflating his apparent wealth and power. Once he acquires enough dead souls, he will retire to a large farm and [use them as collateral to] take out an enormous loan, finally acquiring the great wealth he desires.

Chichikov assumes that the rural gentry will be eager to sell their dead souls for a pittance.  However, the task of collecting the rights to dead people proves difficult, due to the persistent greed, suspicion, and general distrust of the landowners.

… And madcap hilarity ensues for quite some time.   The novel ends in mid-sentence as the prince who (spoiler alert!) arranged Chichikov’s arrest gives a grand speech that rails against corruption in the Russian government:

“It goes without saying that the prime conspirators ought to undergo deprivation of rank and property, and that the remainder ought to be dismissed from their posts; for though that would cause a certain proportion of the innocent to suffer with the guilty, there would seem to be no other course available, seeing that the affair is one of the most disgraceful nature, and calls aloud for justice.  Therefore, although I know that to some my action will fail to serve as a lesson, since it will lead to their succeeding to the posts of dismissed officials, as well as that others hitherto considered honourable will lose their reputation, and others entrusted with new responsibilities will continue to cheat and betray their trust —although all this is known to me, I still have no choice but to satisfy the claims of justice by proceeding to take stern measures.  I am also aware that I shall be accused of undue severity; but, lastly, I am aware that it is my duty to put aside all personal feeling, and to act as the unconscious instrument of that retribution which justice demands.”
… “As a Russian, therefore —as one bound to you by consanguinity and identity of blood— I make to you my appeal.  I make it to those of you who understand wherein lies nobility of thought. I invite those men to remember the duty which confronts us, whatsoever our respective stations; I invite them to observe more closely their duty, and to keep more constantly in mind their obligations of holding true to their country, in that before us the future looms dark, and that we can scarcely….”

Gee, what’s Comrade Bearcub trying to say?  If only the Prime Minister would clearly state what’s on his mind!

Transit of Viktor

June 9, 2012

For just about everybody except a handful of Russians and the US Bureau of Prisons, Viktor Bout has been out of sight and out of mind for a few months.  Even Lunghu –one of Viktor’s most avid fans– forgot to check up on his whereabouts.  Well, wonder no more:  last week Lunghu took a peek at the BOP’s Inmate Locator website and learned that Comrade Bout is temporarily housed at FTC (Federal Transit Center) Oklahoma City, where the wind comes sweeping down the plain, etc.

Unless the BOP is just having a little fun by bouncing Inmate #91641-054 around the vast Continental United States from region to region, this suggests that Viktor may be destined for a long-term residence somewhere in the BOP’s South Correctional Region.  The map above shows that there are quite a few locations for BOP to choose from –most of them warm and sunny (or hot and sweltering, if you prefer).  Although Lunghu is somewhat disappointed that FCI Fairton thus appears to be out of the picture, he’s gonna cast an alternate vote for FCI La Tuna.  This facility is located near El Paso, Texas and thus has the advantage of being close to the DEA’s El Paso Intelligence Center and not too far from the US Army’s Fort Huachuca intelligence complex.  The possibilities are legion.

Of course, there’s still much to be done while Inmate Bout is temporarily in Oklahoma City.  Given the ongoing (entirely unofficial) Viktor Bout ransom negotiations, Lunghu considers Bout’s presence in OKC to be a broad-and-none-too-veiled hint to Comrade Bear that Gazprom is expected to pony up some sort of energy-sector assistance for its beleaguered colleagues Aubrey McClendon and Chesapeake Energy.  Perhaps we can anticipate announcement of a joint venture exploration/development deal somewhere on the vast Eurasian continent.


All reasonable offers will be considered.  Remember:  seldom is heard a discouraging word/and the skies are not cloudy all day, etc.


Ransom Is As Ransom Does

April 13, 2012

When Lunghu heard last week that VTB Bank executives were coming to Manhattan for a meeting with prospective investors hosted by Citibank, his second thought was: “Well, it looks like the ransom negotiations for Viktor Bout are finally underway in earnest!”  [In case you were wondering, Lunghu’s first thought was: “What imperialist-capitalist in his right mind would invest in VTB?”  After all, its shares are currently worth about 7 kopecks each, and its core business seems to consist of laundering assets for Comrade Bear and his kleptocrat cronies.]

This week, there have been further signs that Putin, Sechin, et al. are ready to open up the treasure chest in order to repatriate their faithful(?) retainer, Comrade Bout.  What does Russia have that the US wants?  The usual.  Oil.

There will be no export duties for new hydrocarbon development projects on the Russian continental shelf, President-elect Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.  “There should be a special stimulating taxation system for shelf projects scheduled for implementation. We have made a decision to fully lift the export duty for new shelf projects,” Putin said at a government meeting.
“We also suggest lifting property tax and value-added tax on unique imported equipment which Russia does not manufacture, for all new [energy development] projects regardless of the complexity level,” the prime minister added.


“We expect the world’s largest corporations will partner with our Russian companies on the shelf,” said Putin without naming any specific Western firms.  All private companies — both Russian and foreign — currently have to team up with either Rosneft or Gazprom and allow the state firms to control at least 50 percent of any offshore deal.  Rosneft last year signed a deal to develop three Kara Sea oil fields with the US supermajor ExxonMobil, [which] has since lobbied for cuts in export duties that could help justify the enormous expense of developing the fields.

When Exxon talks, presidents listen.

Oh. While you’re at it, just one other thing …

Russia supports the US pick to lead the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said Friday.  “Taking into account professional qualities, experience and the competencies of Mr Kim, Russia will support the candidacy of Jim Yong Kim in the vote of the World Bank’s board,” Siluanov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency after meeting the US candidate.


And … since things are going so well, how about a quiet, private chat next month?

The United States wants to hold a separate summit with Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Group of Eight meeting at Camp David in May, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday.
“The Americans want a separate, independent Russian-American summit,” Lavrov was quoted by the RIA Novosti news agency as saying after returning from a G8 foreign minister meeting in Washington.
Putin will receive an official briefing on the US proposal after he is inaugurated on May 7 for a third term as Russian president.     “We will report to the president when he assumes his powers,” Lavrov said.
“We are disposed to have continuity in relations, to continue to seek further spheres of shared interests — of which there are many —  and where interests coincide, to agree on moving forward,” he said.

By all means, where interests coincide, agree on moving forward.  Progress always comes at a price.


The Price of Progress

December 16, 2011

How much is a half-hearted political ‘endorsement’ worth?  If it’s a week after Russian Duma elections and you’re Vladimir Putin, the answer is … one nuclear submarine and a southbound Gazprom pipeline full of LNG:

  • Russia will significantly boost supplies of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to India in 2016, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Friday.   India’s gas consumption is projected to increase 70 percent by 2020.
  • Russia will lease its Nerpa nuclear submarine to India by the end of the year, the head of Russia’s federal agency in charge of military and technical cooperation, Mikhail Dmitriyev, said on Friday. … Friday’s announcement on the submarine lease came during a visit by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Russia.  Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met with Singh earlier in the day.


  • Russia’s president will visit India in 2012, the two countries confirmed in their joint statement on further improvement of the Russia-India strategic partnership. Traditionally, leaders visit each other in one year’s time, thus a visit of Russia’s leader to New Delhi is due in 2012. It is also traditional that exchange visits happen in December.  Dmitry Medvedev will leave office in May of 2012, thus Russia’s new president [wonder who?] will go to India.



  • Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday wished his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin success in the March 4 presidential elections. “Let me congratulate the people of Russia on the successful State Duma elections and the victory of United Russia.”


credit: Alexei N.


Hmmmm.  Sounds to Lunghu as though the sales commission payments will be delivered in India, in person … next year.

But wait!  It gets better.

Foreign travel is always more enjoyable when accompanied by an old friend:

Alexei Kudrin, who was dismissed by President Dmitry Medvedev as finance minister, will be offered a post in the new government, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.
“Kudrin has never left my team. He is my long-standing comrade, a close friend,” Putin said during a televised Q&A session.  He praised Kudrin for his ability to “think globally, strategically” and for being “a visionary.”

Lunghu’s translation, courtesy of Comrade Bear himself:  “Tovarich Alexei, there is no such thing as a former Chekist.”

WHAT did he just say?!?

Kudrin showed himself to be as cagy as ever:

“I would leave this question open because I would like Putin to propose some new approaches,” he said.

Lunghu’s translation, American-style:  “What’s in it for me?

Sounds like the continuation of a beautiful friendship.