It looks like Moscow isn't interested in buying part of Kyrgyzstan’s gas infrastructure. It wants all of it.
After a week of dangerous energy shortages in Kyrgyzstan, which continued to leave thousands of customers in the capital without gas on Friday, Bishkek is finalizing a deal to sell Kyrgyzgaz to Russia’s state-run behemoth, Gazprom, officials say.
The shortages began when neighboring Kazakhstan stopped gas supplies to Kyrgyzstan on December 14, citing the need to supply its own customers. Kyrgyzstan had also constantly defaulted on payments and reportedly owed the Kazakhs tens of millions of dollars. The shut off happened to coincide with a bout of extreme cold – temperatures in Bishkek have hovered around -20 Celsius (-4 Fahrenheit) for the past week – leading some to speculate the shortage was a bargaining ploy. In any case, as more Kyrgyzstanis turned to electricity to cook and heat their homes, their country's aging infrastructure faltered, resulting in mass blackouts.
For years, observers have warned of a crisis like the one currently gripping the country, but politicians have done little more than bicker and postpone solutions – like find ways to cut rampant corruption in the sector and raise energy tariffs to cover basic maintenance.
President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has come out with a second volume of his seminal work Medicinal Plants of Turkmenistan, turkmenistan.ru reports. With this new book, Berdymukhamedov, a trained dentist, doctor of medicine and former health minister, seems to combine a message of paternal concern for public health with promotion of native traditions to evoke a sense of national pride.
The first volume, issued last year, boasted of the achievements of Turkmen medicine over the past 14 years since independence and provided a historical sketch of medicinal plants in Turkmenistan as well as information about their biologically-active components.
The appearance of the glossy two-volume set with pictures and recipes for how to prepare medicines out of plants, leaves, grasses and roots -- published in Turkmen, Russian, and English -- raises the question of whether the Turkmen leader is indulging in yet another self-promotion that verges on the sort of cult of personality for which his predecessor, dictator Saparmurat Niyazov, was infamous. Berdymukhamedov has published books on health, the famous Akhal race horses, and a biography of his grandfather, an injured World War II hero.
While Turkey and Russia plow along with natural gas pipelines north and south of the Black Sea, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Romania have decided that the shortest and fastest distance between two points is a straight line.
Baku, Tbilisi and Bucharest on May 12 set up a company that will build two liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals on either side of the Black Sea to get Eastern Europe the Russia-free natural gas it reportedly craves.
LNG naysayers point to the project's technical difficulties and to its lack of financing plans to argue that the trio's expectations may be getting the best of them.
Compared with the tangled Nabucco pipeline drama, however, the LNG project partners have little in the way of outstanding political issues. The project's key to success may lie in the old Russian maxim "The fewer people, the more oxygen." ("Меньше народу, больше кислороду.")
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