Thursday, 21 February 2013

A dying empire celebrates in the Kremlin

Czar Putin is celebrating tonight at the Kremlin

Russian gas giant Gazprom will celebrate its 20-year anniversary Thursday at a $2 million gala evening at the State Kremlin Palace.

President Vladimir Putin is expected to personally congratulate the company's employees, as he did on Gazprom's tenth and 15-year anniversaries.
The evening at the Kremlin will continue with a concert that will include performances by British rock musician Sting and Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli. -
Putin's puppet, "prime minister" Medvedev, sent his congratulations:
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who is on a tour of Latin America, congratulated the company on Wednesday, calling it a "leader of the global fuel and energy market." 
The prime minister said Gazprom has a staff of genuine professional and expressed the hope that the company "will continue to effectively develop in the interests of the country, in the interests of our citizens, increase the might of our nation."
One is sort of getting used to faded rock stars and other western media figures celebrating the former second rate KGB agent, but this may very well be one of the last such occasions:
Gazprom’s shipments to Europe have been falling steadily and the company’s share price has dropped 60 per cent since the advent of the fracking revolution. Former Soviet stalwarts such as Romania and Ukraine, among the most dependent on Gazprom, have started looking into exploiting their shale-gas deposits as well, while others, such as Lithuania, are leading the European Union’s competition probe.
Mr. Putin has tried to hit back, deriding fracking as dangerous and warning the EU that its competition probe could result in less gas flowing to the West. There is much at stake for the Russian leader, said Dieter Helm, a professor of energy policy at Oxford University.
“Putin’s government depends on oil and gas, and this weakens his position very considerably,” Prof. Helm said. “Now if their finances fall away, there’s not the money to keep sections of the population happy. I think you are creating the conditions for, in three, four or five years, for considerable resistance to Putin’s authoritarian rule.”
A weakened Gazprom also weakens Russia’s clout. As recently as four years ago, Russia could simply turn off the taps if a country such as Ukraine failed to agree to a new contract. Even Western European countries were wary of upsetting Russia for fear of jeopardizing energy relations.
Read the entire article here

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