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.
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!
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.