“I have grown to love secrecy. It seems to be the one thing
that can make modern life mysterious or marvellous to us.
The commonest thing is delightful if only one hides it.”
Oscar Wilde. The Picture of Dorian Gray
Two main talking points. Okay, it’s a cheesy title but nevertheless appropriate. The two big talking points concerning Russia right now are the Ukraine deal and the presidential pardon for Mikhail Khodorkovsky. We know the basic facts about both but not the terms, the small print. Specifically what has, if anything, President Yanakovich agreed to in exchange for the Russian money and what are the terms of Khodorkovsky’s pardon? At yesterday’s press conference Khodorkovsky spoke of an “unspoken understanding” about what he is going to do in the future, which includes staying away from politics. Speculation about the specifics of both deals will continue to preoccupy Russia watchers for many months of 2014. The fact that President Putin was negotiating with German officials and Khodorkovsky even as law enforcement agencies were preparing a third case is also intriguing. But that’s for another day.
No immediate impact. Neither event has any short or medium term implication for the stock market, currency or the domestic economy.
May Gazprom get equity in the Ukraine pipe? Without wishing to add further to the plethora of speculation, one issue to watch for concerns Gazprom’s long standing ambition to own an equity stake in the Ukraine transit pipe. Recall that this was eventually part of the deal for cheap gas to Belarus. The point about this is that it would be much easier and cheaper to upgrade that pipe and plug it into the Balkan’s South Stream network than to build the Black Sea transit pipe. It would also satisfy President Putin’s demand that state companies cut spending and, perhaps, allow Gazprom to boost the dividend.
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