Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Austria, gas and the big bad Russians

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Could an Austrian oil and gas group with more than 41,000 employees, some 25.5 billion euros turnover and a presence in more than 20 countries actually be a secret front for Russian gas giants, extending their tentacles of power into Europe?

It could be if you believe Zsolt Hernadi, the chairman of Hungarian rival MOL, not to mention some scary headlines about Russian gas in the British press.

Earlier this week Austria’s OMV sold a 21 percent stake it held in MOL to Russian oil group Surgutneftegaz for 1.4 billion euros ($1.9 billion), double the amount the stake was worth as stock. The stake was originally bought from … a Russian family Almost half of the stake was originally bought from … a Russian family.

“Suspicion arises … that because the Russian investor bought this stake at exactly the (initial purchase) price, it (OMV) was just a front,” Hernadi told a Hungarian parliament committee.

Three little words that kept Europe in the cold

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The difference between Europe having Russian gas as normal and not having it came down, in the end, to three words. They were hand-written next to what looks like the signature of Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Hryhory Nemyrya and they were: “With declaration attached”.

That was enough to undercut a deal hammered out by Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, whose country holds the rotating EU Presidency, to deploy monitors along the gas pipeline route — Russia’s condition for turning the taps back on.

British royalty steps into Central Asia energy diplomacy

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Britain’s Prince Andrew stepped into Central Asia energy diplomacy this week, touring the vast former Soviet region and holding top-level talks on gas supplies in remote Turkmenistan.

Western envoys have flocked to Central Asia over past years, hoping to grab a share of its abundant energy reserves – a worrisome trend for Russia which sees the mainly Muslim region as part of its traditional sphere of interest.

Always a marriage of convenience in Ukraine?

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Ukraine’s President Yushchenko and Prime Minister Tymoshenko smile during their meeting with local businessmen in KievHe was a suave central banker and she a “gas princess”, a young politician desperate to make her mark. In 1998 Yulia  Tymoshenko, now Ukraine’s prime minister, said she knew her destiny lay with Viktor Yushchenko, who went on to become president.

“We understood that we are a team,” she said at that time.

It’s an assertion Yushchenko disputes — a clash of views that has defined this partnership since they overturned a Soviet-style leadership in the 2004 “Orange Revolution” and vowed a modern, Western future for Ukraine’s 47 million people.

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