A meeting was held in Moscow yesterday between Russian first deputy premier Boris Nemtsov and his Chechen counterpart, Movladi Udugov. They discussed the question of restoring the Baku-Novorossiisk oil pipeline and the transportation of oil through Chechen territory. (Interfax, NTV, June 4) This is the first time the transportation of oil has been discussed at such a high level. Some experts have claimed that the question of which way Azerbaijani oil will flow to the West — through Chechnya, Novorossiisk, or even by sea (the so-called "northern variant"), or by way of Georgia and Turkey — as the main cause of the war in Chechnya.
Moscow is keenly interested in the "northern variant," since in this case the profit for transporting the oil would go to Russia. The Chechen leadership is likewise interested in the "northern variant," since the revenues for transporting oil through Chechen territory would then go into the republic’s budget. Earlier, Moscow either would not, or could not, share such profits with Chechen leader Djohar Dudaev. Now, however, the Kremlin is trying to reach an agreement on this ticklish question with the Chechen authorities. So far, at least, the negotiations have been unsuccessful. Originally, it was planned that oil transportation along the northern route would begin in the fall of 1996, but this date has been repeatedly postponed.
Yesterday’s talks could finally get things moving again. According to Nemtsov, a decision on restoring the pipeline could be made as soon as June 5. Such an agreement, should it actually be concluded, could without exaggeration be called historic. Caspian Sea oil is set to begin being pumped along the Northern route through Russia on October 1. (NTV, Interfax, June 4)