Moscow, 12 September 1997 (RFE/RL) - Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov said today Russia will build an alternative pipeline bypassing Chechnya to ensure deliveries of Azerbaijani oil to its Black Sea ports.
Nemtsov, on a trip to Western Siberia, said the new 283-kilometer pipeline would run from the Chechen-Dagestani border to the town of Terskoye in the Russian republic of North Ossetia. Nemtsov said building the pipeline would cost 220 million dollars.
Nemtsov said the new pipeline had to be built "as soon as possible" to avoid complaints frrom a consortium developing Azerbaijan's oil deposits.
The only existing pipeline for exporting Azerbaijan's rich oil deposits runs through Chechnya. Under a deal signed earlier this week Moscow agreed to pay $854,000 in transit fees to Chechnya for delivery of 200,000 tons this year. Some Russian officials however fear the pipeline could give strong levers to the Chechen leadership in political talks with Moscow. Moscow insists Chechnya is an integral part of Russia but the Chechen leadership considers the breakaway republic to be de facto independent.