Putin, Xi launch ‘historic’ Russian gas pipeline to China

An employee checks a gas valve at a compressor station, a part of Gazprom’s Power Of Siberia gas pipeline, outside the far eastern town of Svobodny, Russia. (Reuters)
Updated 02 December 2019

Putin, Xi launch ‘historic’ Russian gas pipeline to China

  • The project is aimed at cementing Moscow’s role as the world’s top gas exporter

MOSCOW: Russia and China on Monday launched a giant gas pipeline linking the countries for the first time, one of three major projects aimed at cementing Moscow’s role as the world’s top gas exporter.

Presiding by video linkup over an elaborate televised ceremony, Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping hailed the “Power of Siberia” pipeline as a symbol of cooperation.

“Today is remarkable, a truly historic event not only for the global energy market, but first of all for us and for you, for Russia and China,” Putin said.

Xi said the project served as a model of cooperation.

“China-Russia relations are entering a new era,” Xi said. “Everyone worked hard.”The ceremony featured hard-hatted gas workers and videos showing the pipeline’s difficult path from remote areas of eastern Siberia to Blagoveshchensk on the Chinese border.

Workers burst into applause and celebratory music played as the CEO of Russian gas giant Gazprom, Alexei Miller, speaking from the Amur region, ordered a valve opened for the gas to flow across the border.

The 3,000-km pipeline — which Putin has called “the world’s biggest construction project” — will supply China with 38 billion cubic meters of gas annually when fully operational in 2025.

Russia and China signed the 30-year, $400 billion construction deal in 2014 — Gazprom’s biggest ever contract.

The pipeline is part of Russia efforts to develop ties with Asia — in particular top energy importer China — amid longstanding tensions with the West.

Gazprom stressed that the pipeline ran through “swampy, mountainous, seismically active, permafrost and rocky areas with extreme environmental conditions.”

Temperatures along the route plunge to below -60 C in Yakutia and below -40 C in the Russian Far East’s Amur Region.

Work has also been completed on the first road bridge between Russia and China, further linking the two neighbors.

The bridge, which is to open next year, will connect the city of Blagoveshchensk and the northern Chinese city of Heihe.

Moscow, however, remains a key gas provider to Europe and is also planning to soon launch two more pipelines that will ramp up supplies to the continent while bypassing Ukraine — TurkStream and Nord Stream 2.

Analysts said the three projects have long-term economic and political benefits for Russia, which has inserted itself between European markets to the west and the rapidly growing Chinese market to the east.

“Russia is not only creating new income streams, but hedging its bets and bolstering its position strategically,” said energy analyst Andrew Hill.

“The ability to play one off against the other will not have been lost on either Gazprom or the Kremlin,” Hill, who leads the S&P Global Platts EMEA gas and power analytics team, wrote in a blog.


IMF experts visit Lebanon amid worsening economic crisis

Updated 20 February 2020

IMF experts visit Lebanon amid worsening economic crisis

  • IMF team will provide broad technical advice
  • Lebanon has not requested IMF financial assistance

BEIRUT: A team of IMF experts met Prime Minister Hassan Diab on Thursday at the start of a visit to provide Lebanon with advice on tackling a deepening financial and economic crisis, an official Lebanese source said.

The IMF has said the team will visit until Feb. 23 and provide broad technical advice. Lebanon has not requested financial assistance from the Fund.

The long-brewing economic crisis spiraled last year as capital flows into the country slowed and protests erupted against the ruling elite over decades of corruption and bad governance.

Diab’s government, which took office last month, must decide what to do about upcoming debt payments, notably a $1.2 billion dollar-denominated sovereign bond due on March 9.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun meanwhile said on Thursday measures would be taken to hold to account all those who contributed to Lebanon’s financial crisis through illegal actions be they transfers abroad, manipulation of Eurobonds or other acts.

“There is information that we are still in need of with regards to the banking situation. There are measures that we will take to hold to account all who participated in bringing the crisis to where it is,” Aoun said, according to his Twitter account.

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One of Lebanon’s most influential politicians, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, said on Wednesday that debt restructuring was the best solution for looming maturities.

Lebanon will on Friday review proposals from firms bidding to give it financial and legal advice on its options, a source familiar with the matter said on Thursday. The government aims to take a quick decision on who to appoint, the source said.

So far, firms bidding to be Lebanon’s legal adviser are Dechert, Cleary Gottlieb, and White and Case, the source said.

Lebanon has issued requests for proposals to seven firms to provide it with financial advice.

The government on Wednesday formed a committee tasked with preparing an economic recovery plan that includes ministers, government officials, a central bank representative and economists, according to a copy of a decree seen by Reuters.