Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 164

Fresh doubts were cast yesterday over the status and outcome of Russia’s attempts to negotiate an agreement with Chechnya over the transport of Caspian oil to western markets. What was clear was that Russia’s threats to bypass Chechnya had an impact: Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov, who had originally rejected Russian proposals on transport tariffs, "reluctantly" changed his mind and accepted the solution put forward by Russian Security Council secretary Ivan Rybkin. Rybkin proposed that Transneft, the company responsible for shipping oil through Russian territory, should pay the difference between the $0.43 per metric ton offered by Moscow and the $2.20 on which the Chechen side was insisting. Transneft vice-president Yury Lisin flew to Djohar-gala on September 3 to sign the agreement with the Chechen authorities. (RTR, September 4)

However, the agreement was almost scuttled at that point by disagreements within the Russian government. Rybkin’s proposal alarmed Russia’s Ministry of Fuel and Energy, which had apparently decided that the ministry would handle all the expenses. On the evening of September 3, Deputy Minister of Fuel and Energy Sergei Kirienko called the head of Chechnya’s Southern Oil Company, Khozhakhmed Yarikhanov, and retracted Rybkin’s proposal. Then the Kremlin intervened. Kirienko was suspended and President Yeltsin’s plenipotentiary representative in Djohar-gala phoned Yarikhanov and insisted that Rybkin’s offer remained in force. (Russian agencies, Kommersant-daily, September 4)

According to today’s Nezavisimaya gazeta, the dispute within the Russian leadership is far from settled. Kirienko was reportedly not acting on his own initiative when he tried to retract Rybkin’s offer but on instructions from his boss, First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov. (Nezavisimaya gazeta, September 5) The newspaper’s version of the story is supported by Nemtsov’s statement yesterday that the draft agreement should not contain a provision that Transneft would pay the additional expenses to restore Chechnya’s fuel and energy complex or the additional expenses for the transit of oil. (Russian agencies, September 4) It seems that neither the Ministry of Fuel and Energy nor the Russian Security Council has the last word on the oil talks with Chechnya. But for the moment at least, talks between Russian and Chechen officials have been suspended and it seems to be Nemtsov who has the initiative. (RTR, September 4)

Ossetian-Ingush Agreement.