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Georgian Official Says Pipeline Repairs Complete --> Tbilisi residents lining up to fill gas canisters on 26 January (epa) 28 January 2006 -- A Georgian presidential envoy says repairs on a damaged pipeline that delivers gas to Georgia from Russia are complete and supplies could resume shortly.

Vasily Maglakelidze, the presidential envoy to Georgia's Mtskheta-Mtianeti region, which borders Russia, said "gas will be pumped to Georgia tonight [28 January] or Sunday [29 January] morning."

Earlier on 28 January, local officials in the Russian republic of North Ossetia said work is continuing on the damaged pipeline, but no date has been set for the resumption of energy supplies.

Georgia is in the midst of a severe energy crisis after twin blasts damaged the Mozdok-Tbilisi pipeline on 22 January, cutting off supplies of gas.

To compensate for the shortage, Iran will start delivering gas to Georgia in the next few days.

Georgia has suggested that Russia was responsible for the explosions. Moscow denies the charge and says it is investigating the incident.

(Interfax, AFP)

Russia's Gas Strategy

RUNNING HOT AND COLD The crisis over Russian supplies of natural gas to Ukraine that erupted on New Year's Day has implications that spread well beyond these two countries and will impact both economic and political policymaking throughout Europe. On January 19, RFE/RL's Washington, D.C., office hosted a briefing the examined the ramifications of the natural-gas conflict.

CLIFFORD GADDY, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, outlined Russia's "grand energy strategy," in which Ukraine is perceived as merely an obstacle frustrating Russia's energy ambitions in Western Europe and therefore a nonentity in Russia's broader strategic planning. According to Gaddy, Russia's strategic goal regarding energy is to maximize the role of its own energy resources in the world energy markets, so as to increase its geopolitical influence. To do this, it must reduce competition and maximize dependency on its own energy resources, as well as ensure a stable supply.

TARAS KUZIO, a visiting assistant professor at George Washington University, rebutted Gaddy's argument, claiming that Russia's actions evidenced a complete lack of geopolitical strategy and resulted in strong denunciations by Western countries and a loss of political allies in Ukraine. According to Kuzio, Russian President Vladimir Putin's desire to have a deal signed by the January 4 European Union energy summit outweighed his hope of reinforcing opposition to Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko during the run-up to Ukraine's March 26 parliamentary elections.

RFE/RL Coordinator of Corruption Studies ROMAN KUPCHINSKY did not fully agree with Kuzio's assessments of Yushchenko or Ukraine. He outlined three major problems that are feeding the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The biggest, he argues, is that the state-controlled Russian gas giant Gazprom holds a monopoly on natural-gas sales outside the CIS. Kupchinsky also decried Ukraine's consumption of natural gas, terming it "out of control." Corruption is also a major factor in the conflict, Kupchinsky said, although the extent to which it taints the deal struck between Russia and Ukraine remains unknown.


Listen to the complete panel discussion (about 90 minutes):
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Moscow's New Energy Strategy

Moscow And Energy Leverage

Russia's New Imperialism

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