Saturday, October 30, 2004

Fears of Russia remain strong

President Putin has been openly campaigning for the pro-Kremlin candidate in the Ukrainian elections, which have been marred by a great deal of violence and intimidation as well as a suspected murderous attack on the opposition presidential candidate.

There is a strong suspicion that in a year or so there will be a referendum in Russia, similar to the Belarus one, which will change the constitution to give Putin another term (or as many as he might wish).

Tension in Eastern Europe is also increasing by the feeling that Russia is trying to insinuate itself into the economies of those countries through the energy industry. We have already reported that Russia supplies a very large proportion of the oil and gas that the new member states use.

In a recent enquiry in Poland into details of a Russian attempt to take over the country’s second largest refinery, Rafineria Gdanska, by Lukoil, evidence has been presented of all kinds of skullduggery from agents of the KGB’s successors. Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, a former Polish spy chief and an important figure in the ruling left, said in his testimony:

"I agree that we are facing a restoration of the Russian Empire through economic means and with the principle of 'yesterday tanks, today oil'."
The Polish media has seized on this and other statements to sound the alarm. Not surprisingly, neither the Russian Embassy, nor the Polish Foreign Ministry has commented on any of the accusations.

One must remember that the “privatized” energy giants in Russia are coming more and more under state control with Putin’s friends and allies acquiring important positions on the boards, and even becoming directors and chairmen.

According to the Reuters report, published in the Moscow Times:
“The most shocking revelation the inquiry has produced so far was that Poland's richest man, industrialist Jan Kulczyk, held secret talks in Vienna about the future of the Polish energy sector with a former KGB agent resident in Poland. According to declassified intelligence reports, made public by a special parliamentary committee leading the inquiry, Kulczyk had offered to use his
political influence to help Russian firms make another try for the Gdansk refinery.

Kulczyk denies the accusations.”

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