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Gas Crisis Hits Russo-Georgian Ties
/ 23 Jan.'06 / 14:11
Civil Georgia

The energy crisis that has resulted from two gas lines being destroyed in North Ossetia on Sunday will be solved for consumers in Tbilisi, as Russia began delivering gas to Georgia via Azerbaijan late on January 22, but Georgia’s regions will suffer a gas shortage for at least one week.

Currently, 3 million cubic meters of gas per day is being delivered via Azerbaijan, which is enough for consumers in Tbilisi and for operation of the 9th power generator in Gardabani alone. Georgia requires a total of 7 million cubic meters of gas per day to supply gas to the whole country.

Round-the-clock rehabilitation works are underway to restore the damaged pipelines, Russian news agencies reported.

The crisis erupted when two gas pipelines were blown up in Russia’s North Ossetian republic early on January 22. Russia qualified the incident as a “terrorist act,” while Tbilisi has accused Moscow of orchestating a deliberate “energy sabotage” against Georgia.

Accusations were voiced by the Georgian President, Interior Minister and Parliamentary Chairperson, as well as by some senior parliamentarians.

President Saakashvili made a strong-worded statements on January 22 describing Russia “as unprincipled blackmailer” and accusing Moscow of sabotaging Georgia, but provided no evidence for these claims. He also said that Russia wants to take over the Georgian gas pipeline network.
 
Tbilisi’s accusations were described by the Russian Foreign Ministry as “hysteria.”

Later on January 22 President Saakashvili slightly softened his stance and said in an interview with CNN: “I'm not accusing anybody. I'm just asking questions. It looks dubious at the very least.”

On January 23 Russian Ambassador in Tbilisi Vladimir Chkhikvishvili convened a press conference and questioned Tbilisi’s “logic in accusing Russia” of masterminding the explosions at the pipelines.

He said if Russia wanted to masterminded a “so-called energy sabotage” Moscow would not have organized for an alternate supply of gas to come to Georgia via Azerbaijan.

While commenting on gas being delivered from Azerbaijan, Georgian officials avoided mentioning the fact that the gas was supplied by Russia and were saying instead that the gas was delivered on the bases of a bilateral agreement between Tbilisi and Baku reached last year.

The Russian diplomat also said at a news conference that statements made by the Georgian officials about Russia's so-called ‘energy blackmail’ of Georgia were also “very surprising” against the background of persisting large-scale energy investment programs being carried out by Russian companies in Georgia.

He said that one of the examples of these investments is the opening of a gas turbine electricity generator scheduled for January 23.

“Maybe some of you do not know the fact that the purchase of these two gas turbines was financed by the Russian side. [The Russian bank] VneshTorgBank has spent, according to the official preliminary information, about USD 40 million [for this project]. There are also many other additional energy projects [going on in Georgia],” Vladimir Chkhikvishvili said.

Speaking at an emergency session of the National Security Council late on January 22 President Saakashvili commented on this gas turbine electricity generator, but did not say anything about Russian investments in this project. He said that although “there is no gas now, we will open this gas turbine anyway just to spite our enemies.”

Russian Ambassador Chkhikvishvili said that statements made by the Georgian officials were a “very serious blow to Russian-Georgian relations.”

“So the [reasonable nature] of future cooperation with new energy projects is now questionable,” the Russian diplomat added.

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