Azerbaijani presidential aides yesterday cited Boris Berezovsky, deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council, as having assured Azerbaijani president Haidar Aliev that Russia and the new Chechen government can guarantee the safe transport of "early" Azerbaijani oil to Russia via Chechnya. Berezovsky told Aliev in Baku last week that Grozny is both interested in and capable of providing security of the Chechen stretch of the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline. Concerns expressed by Azerbaijan and the Western consortium over pipeline security are "unwarranted," Berezovsky was cited as assuring Aliev. Also yesterday, Russia’s first deputy minister for oil and power, Anatoly Shatalov, offered similar assurances in Moscow for the benefit of Western investors. Shatalov added that the Chechnya stretch of the pipeline requires only "insignificant repairs" and will be ready to transport Azerbaijani oil next year. (Petroleum Information Agency, Interfax, November 18)
Russian and western sources recently reported that the pipeline’s Chechnya stretch is shot through with holes made during the recent war in order to pilfer from the meager amounts of oil still in transit. An increase in the amount transported would correspondingly increase the security risks. The repair costs today must exceed by far the official Russian pre-war estimate of $55 million, which was itself probably an underestimation. The "early" oil, which was expected to be on stream from Azerbaijan’s Chirag oil field in 1996 but is now due for August 1997, amounts to 32 million tons over a 7-year period. The amount is relatively insignificant, but Moscow wants to route it through Russia in order to establish a title to transiting the much larger amounts of "future oil" from Azerbaijan to the Russian port of Novorossiisk.
Tajik Government Plans Crucial Military Operation Before Winter.