Russian energy major Gazprom announced plans to begin supplying Turkey with natural gas in December of 2016. Gazprom’s plan, as outlined by chief Alexei Miller, is to route approximately 63 billion cubic meters of gas per annum underneath the Black Sea and into Turkey, which would then route it to European markets should the EU decide to build connecting pipelines joining it with Russia’s own pipeline network. The plan, which has been criticized by energy analysts as implausible and “nonsensical” in economic terms, would completely bypass Ukraine, sending gas currently destined for EU markets through four lines each carrying almost 16 billion bcm into Turkey.
On a recent visit to Ankara, Miller stated that the agreement reached by Russian and Turkish officials will allow the two sides leeway to “organize the work” in such a way that a final intergovernmental accord could be brokered and signed before the second half of this year, and that construction would begin thereafter. The Turkish option only became necessary after the European Union pulled its support for the proposed South Stream pipeline despite objections from implicated EU states such as Bulgaria.
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- In a stark change of posture, Belarus has adopted measures to promote the Belarusian language throughout the country. Belarusian, while still technically an official language of Belarus, is spoken by only 20.3% of its populace, with the majority claiming Russian as their native language. The measures coincide with statements made by Alexander Lukashenko declaring his willingness to fight any nation that infringes on Belarus’s sovereignty, even Putin’s Russia. Belarus has spoken out against Russian meddling in eastern Ukraine out of concerns that similar actions could be taken in Belarus. The Belarusian capital of Minsk has been home to mostly unsuccessful peace talks, and limited but positive steps have been taken by the government in Minsk to reduce its dependence on Russia.
- Plans to developer another railway connecting Central Asia to Iran have begun to materialize. Kyrgyzstan plans to assist in implementing a railway that will pass through Kyrgyzstan, China, Tajikistan and Iran. Meetings were held earlier this week between Iran’s Ambassador to Tajikistan and the heads of regional railroads. Plans to develop this rail network were begun in 2010 though have recently gained momentum.
- US Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew is in Kiev to sign an agreement granting Ukraine an additional two billion dollars conditioned on further Ukrainian fiscal reform. During the visit Lew also warned that harsher sanctions could be imposed against Russia for its continued support of separatist groups in eastern Ukraine. Lew stated that a diplomatic solution would still be preferable to further sanctions, but that all cards are on the table. The European Union is also currently weighing the possibility of leveling additional sanctions against Russia.
- Uzbek state-owned housing development company Qishloq Qurilish Invest Co. has launched a new housing modernization project throughout the country’s rural areas. Spokesmen from the construction firm stated that 49% of the Uzbek populace still live in rural areas, and lack modern facilities. The government plans to build 12,000 rural homes during 2015 and an additional 13,000 in 2016, along with new roads designed to connect villages with local economic hubs. The new project is a continuation of an already successful Uzbek program called the Rural Housing Scheme, carried out with the Asian Development Bank.
- China’s implied oil demand will increase by approximately three percent in 2015. State-owned Chinese National Petroleum Company’s research arm published a report that lists demand as comparable to 2014 requirements of approximately 10.68 million barrels of oil per day. 2014 figures represented a 10% increase from 2013 as China purchased large amounts of oil at the currently low prices in order to build its own reserves.
- Lukoil, the second largest oil-producer in Russia, stated that it “would welcome” an investigation into claims made by Ukraine that the company has used revenues to fund “terrorism” in eastern Ukrarine. Earlier this month accusations of foul play were levied against the company for the alleged financing of the Donetsk People’s Republic, among other organizations. Lukoil “categorically denies” the claims.
- Democrats in the US Senate decided against pushing new Iran sanctions legislation. Robert Menendez, one of the bill’s chief supporters, stated that although he’s still “skeptical” that the framework for an acceptable deal will crystallize that democrats will not support new sanctions legislation until at least the end of March. Republicans could still push the bill forward, though without some support from the democrats it’s unlikely that the bill would pass.