January 22, 2004
As much as has been written about the Chechen independence movement, the root cause for the hostilities that started in 1994 was the unauthorized 'hot tapping' of the Soviet-era Baku-Grozny-Novorossiisk pipeline. The problem persists ten years later, making the pipeline significantly less profitable for both the Russian pipeline operator Transneft and the Chechen government (which could receive $15.67 in transit fees per metric ton of oil transported through the pipeline). The pipeline, reopened in 1997, can move up to 13,000 tons of oil per day.
A special police regiment set up in 2003 is responsible for security at Chechnyas oil and gas sector facilities. Police seized about 400 tank trucks illegally shipping oil and opened 136 fuel theft cases in Chechnya last year. In joint operations with the Interior Ministry, the regiment spotted and scrapped 530 makeshift mini refineries, found 195 holes in the pipeline and seized 3,000 tons of stolen oil. There is also a plan to equip all oil pipelines running through Chechnya with an electronic security system, that will detect the cuts where oil is siphoned.
Another problem plaguing Chechnya is the unexploded ordnance and landmines littering the countryside, which plays havoc on commerce and farming. Between 400 to 500 servicemen (in up to 60 teams) are engaged in daily mine-clearing and mine-defusing operations. Their work is concentrated on the 550 kilometer long network of railroads and highways along the Russian-Georgian border Caucasus Ridge, as well as along the line dividing Chechnya's flatlands and highlands. The number of blasts that caused damage actually decreased by 24 percent, compared with 2002. - Adam Geibel
Pipeline politics and Chechnya, online at: