Ukraine War Day #276: Let’s Talk Ammonia (Part III)

Dear Readers:

Concluding this mini-series within a series, with my review of this piece by reporter Darya Volkova. Darya’s main source is an economist named Ivan Lizan. We have met Ivan before in previous posts, which is why I was able to find a photo of him in my media library. He looks to be a capable young buck, with a firm jaw, a strong hairline, and a keen gaze.

But first: valued reader and commenter Beluga supplied this link to a translation (into English) of the important meeting between President Putin and Russian oligarch Dmitry Mazepin. With this, readers can take it in and make up their own minds. Recall that the accusation against Putin is that he is making what should be purely military decisions (e.g., whether to withdraw from Snake Island and Kharkov; whether to exchange POW’s, etc.) based on the economic and profit interests of his oligarchic friends; and not so much on the actual needs of the army. Well, there are two sides to every story, of course. I reckon the proof of the pudding will happen if we shall see 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers returning from captivity to their posts all of a sudden, coinciding with the re-opening of the ammonia pipeline.

Ivan Lizan

Speaking of which, let us return to Lizan: “The export of ammonia passing through the territory of Ukraine, and via the Odessa port factory, was halted right at the start of the Special Military Operation. The main advantage to resuming this export along the exact same route, consists in the fact that it can be simply restarted, without any delays.

“Otherwise the Ammonia route will continue to stagnate, and the Togliatti-Azot works will have to sell their production for export, dragging it in cisterns all the way to Taman, or to Temruk. And that wouldn’t even be until after 2025, after they finish building a port to handle the ammonia.”

yalensis: It goes without saying that the transport and loading/unloading of such a poisonous substance as ammonia, requires special facilities, and even special maritime ports and equipment. According to wiki: On land, ammonia is usually transported as a pressurized liquefied gas, by railway in tank cars, by highway in tanker trucks, in agricultural areas in nurse tanks, and also via pipelines traversing through populated areas. So, when they talk about the Togliatti to Odessa pipeline, this is what they are actually talking about: A pipeline traversing through populated areas because, paradoxically, that is way safer than having trucks speeding along the roads carrying this stuff and risking getting into collisions.

The main ammonia plant in Tolyatti was constructed as a joint project of the Soviet Government and Armand Hammer. TogliattiAzot started operations in 1979. The Tolyatti-Odessa ammonia pipeline, the longest ammonia pipeline in the world, is operated by Transammiak.

The picture becomes clearer by the minute: The Soviet Union built this pipeline, which (along with the ammonia) belonged to all of the Soviet people. Now, through the magic of capitalism, it all belongs to just one man, Mr. Mazepin!

Togliatti-Azot workers fix a leak in the pipeline.

Lizan: “We still don’t know if this idea [of putting the Togliatti-Odessa pipeline back into play] is going to be achieved. This issue was one of the things discussed in the framework of the grain deal. But Kiev, as you know, is refusing to take on the obligations it promised.

“The deal that would have suited everybody was this: During its time of transit across the territory of Russia, this ammonia is Russian. The moment it reaches the border with Ukraine, then it transfers into the property of a foreign company that has ties to Togliatti-Azot. This foreign company then pays the transit fees through the territory of Ukraine, right up to the Odessa port factory.

“Unfortunately, Kiev kept putting forward various supplementary conditions for allowing the transit. For example, Zelensky kept asking us to release captured Azov Battalion soldiers, in return for permitting the ammonia to pass.

“And then recently, the Ukrainian President put forward still another unacceptable condition: a prisoner exchange in the format of All for All. Therefore, I am not at all sure that it is even possible to work out a deal with him; but that’s not my call, that would be the call of the Ministry of Defense.”

Or maybe the call of a single billionaire? To be sure, Mazepin is a “legal” oligarch who pays taxes into the Russian budget. Reporter Volkova researched open sources and learned that the Russian treasury used to receive up to $12 billion dollars annually from the export of ammonia via the Ukraine to the West. All of this wonderfulness came to a halt on February 24 of this year. Then, around a week ago (November 18), the grain deal was extended for another 120 days, as brokered by Putin, along with his outstanding and extremely honest partners, Erdoğan, and Guterres from the UN.

Apparently Mazepin hoped that the ammonia trade would come back to life and just ride along on the back of the grain deal, but this was unclear. Although Western media had reported that the West had offered Russia some security guarantees for the renewal of the ammonia deal. So Mazepin had every reason to hope that his cash revenues would start rolling in once again. But then the Ukrainians threw a wrench into it, with their demands for a big prisoner exchange.

So, that is where we stand now, and we can only wait and see what happens next.

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9 Responses to Ukraine War Day #276: Let’s Talk Ammonia (Part III)

  1. Yalensis, I can’t see anywhere in your words, the commentary of the people you translated, or from your commenters so far — nobody has said “There’s something in this ammonia deal that stinks!”

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  2. Steve says:

    You’re right, Let’s wait and see. But I think that “a prisoner exchange in the format of All for All” is just a delusional aspiration of a low-life comedian. President Putin, in spite of his popularity among the Russian population, cannot agree to such absurdity and remain in power.

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    • Liborio Guaso says:

      The fact is that if the delivery of all the prisoners is granted as requested by the West and its Nazi pupils the next time they will demand the delivery of all the Ukrainians who have fled to Russia.
      It is a way to make Russia say no and use it in the media.

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      • yalensis says:

        And the exact same people (the usual suspects, including the UN) are also demanding that Russia evacuate the Zaporozhie Nuclear Power Plant. For the safety of the nation and the good of all humanity, natch.

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  3. square coats says:

    One additional thing this all leaves me wondering about is, if this is a hybrid war being fought both on the battlefield and, to some extent, economically, does that mean economic strategy should be given consideration in determining battlefield strategy? I really don’t know, it just strikes me as an argument someone could make but then I’m sure others could argue back against it just as well.

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    • yalensis says:

      That’s a rather profound point. When you think about it, every war has non-battleground components to it. I imagine every General in history has griped about the restrictions placed on him: He might come up with a perfect strategy for the battlefield, everything laid out like a beautiful chess move; but then his bosses nix it for political or economic reasons, and force him into a second-rate move.

      So, in essence, there is nothing new here. The real issue is: What is of the greatest benefit to Russia as a whole? Winning a particular battle (taking territory), or making some big economic deal that profits the entire nation? What is NOT acceptable is making decisions based on the private needs of an oligarch, that’s the real question here, and why a lot of people are suspicious of Putin.

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      • BM says:

        every war has non-battleground components to it.

        The most classic example: western sanctions on Russia – it’s like a huge economic cauldron the west rushed into, thinking this was going to be their great victory – instead it’s Russia’s great victory and the west’s humungous loss. Russia is winning from sanctions every step of the way. In 10 to 20 years time Russia will probably be the world leading producer of high tech big jet engines, turbines, power plants, and many other high tech engineering domains – all because sanctions gave Russia both the initiative and the golden opportunity to zip ahead. German industry in contrast is being destroyed. Russian engineers are the best in the world – and they have massive numbers of them, 2nd best engineers in the world are Iranian, they also have respectable numbers of them.

        On the ammonia exports – if ammonia is not exported for a couple of years maybe that is also a good thing – it encourages Russia to produce more finished fertiliser, and guarantees good markets.

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        • yalensis says:

          I agree with that. I think Russia should keep Mr. Mazepin’s ammonia pipeline shut down, at least until this war is over; and cease ammonia and fertilizer exports likewise.

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