Chechnya wants to control its oil

Nov 20, 1996 01:00 AM

The head of separatist Chechnya's oil company has said that the region intends to keep control over its oil and not hand it over to Russia. The Southern Petroleum Co. is meant to refine oil produced in Chechnya rather than sell crude.Chechnya, south of Russia in the Caucasus Mountains, produced more than 4 mmt of oil in 1991, before the Soviet collapse. It produced 2.6 mmt in 1993, the year before war with Russia broke out. In addition to its high-grade crude, Chechnya was a major refining centre and lies along the route of a strategic pipeline carrying Caspian Sea oil to the Black Sea. The refineries were badly damaged in the war, but the pipeline, a crucial link in Russia's plans to exercise some control over the oil Azerbaijan expects to pump out of the Caspian fields, never shut down. Some observers have long maintained that the Kremlin's war against the separatists had as much to do with oil as with the tiny, mostly Muslim region's independence drive. The fighting ended this summer with a preliminary peace accord that left the separatists in de facto control.

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