President Saparmurat Niazov told the Turkmen People’s Council yesterday that he has sent a message to Russian President Boris Yeltsin, asking him to speed up the repayment of Russia’s debts to Turkmenistan. Niazov termed “unacceptable” Yeltsin’s proposal to repay the US$107 million debt mostly through deliveries of Russian goods. Turkmenistan needs the hard currency, Niazov said. He told Yeltsin that Turkmenistan has lost hard currency revenue because Russia demands prohibitive prices for the transit of Turkmen gas to Europe.
Niazov further pointed out that Russian-Turkmen trade has fallen to a meager US$2 million this year thus far. Turkmenistan is looking for other partners, “who are gradually replacing Russia in Turkmenistan’s economy,” the president summed up. (Itar-Tass, July 16)
The Russian government and Gazprom have effectively blocked the transit of Turkmen gas to Europe since early 1997 by demanding outlandish fees. Turkmenistan would gain only a modicum of compensation if Moscow repays its commercial debts to Ashgabat in the form of hard cash.–VS
BIG COST OVERRUNS ON KAZAKHSTAN-RUSSIA OIL PIPELINE PROJECT.