Today, EU antitrust regulators have made the case the Gazprom has abused its dominance over European natural gas markets. The European Commission said that unfair pricing has resulted in higher gas prices in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland – most of which are almost 100% dependent on imported Russian natural gas. Regulators assert a significant markup when compared with the company’s costs and benchmark natural gas prices. Gazprom, obviously, denies any wrongdoing, citing its adherence to all international and local state laws regarding gas prices.
It is thought that Gazprom is being used as political leverage against European Union officials that seek to punish Russia for its ongoing role in the Ukraine crisis. However, equally unclear is if this complaint will lead to official action against Gazprom, as there was little mention of which of the countries would be party to leading the action for the complaint or if this was Brussels’ way of merely expressing disapproval through political theater. Gazprom indicated it was willing to settle the charges before a twelve week period ended and a hearing would be called.
Follow us on Twitter: @SteppeDispatch
- Turkmenistan’s government is taking aim at RFE/RL, a major news source in English for Central Asian affairs. They announced they would liquidate all privately owned TV and radio satellite dishes in the country with the intention of removing access to Radio Azatlyk, the Turkmen language service of RFE/RL. Access to cheap satellite dishes have in some cases allowed citizens to obtain sources of information that are out of the grasp of government officials.
- A Russian nuclear scientist was arrested on suspicion of revealing classified information during a conference in Prague. The scientist, Vladimir Golubev, is a retired employee of the Federal Nuclear Center in Sarov, saying that his information is available in open source science magazines and can therefore not be considered classified. Investigators last year who opened the case ordered him not to leave Nizhny Novgorod.
- The Afghan Taliban formally announced its spring offensive would be commencing on April 24, and oddly enough, named targets in the defense and interior ministries. A response statement from the Afghan government was also announced, calling the declaration “repetitive propaganda.” This marks the first fighting season in Afghanistan where the Afghan National Army is handling the Taliban on its own, with no help from ISAF or foreign military forces.
- The Shanghai Cooperation Organization has organized several military drills in Kyrgyzstan with joint units from China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan. Uzbekistan noted it would not be taking part in the drills, which occurred today. These are likely a formal military acknowledgement of the general state of fear among Central Asian countries that Islamic extremism might spread from Afghanistan in the future. Afghanistan, India, Iran, Mongolia, and Pakistan are all observer states to the SCO.
- The Russian government has unveiled a new corruption monitoring index for “Eurasia.” Russian officials are usually the first to behave with indignance when international organizations like Amnesty International point out their corruption issues, and as such, the Russian government has organized a body that have instituted their own rating. The new system, called the International Program for Monitoring Corruption (MONKOR) is being tested in Russia and Kyrgyzstan.