Ani Zirakashvili, Intern at the Rondeli Foundation
Following the recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali by the Russian Federation in August 2008, Moscow actively began the process of integration of the occupied regions of Georgia, including in the field of the energy.
As a result of Russia’s policy in recent years, the Tskhinvali region, unlike Abkhazia, has become completely reliant on Russia in the field of the energy. At this stage, Russia’s financial and technical support ensure Russia to be the only supplier of gas and electricity to the Tskhinvali region. Moscow seeks energy stability in the region through projects implemented and developed by the Kremlin.
Gas Pipeline and a Gasification Project
Russia began to supply gas to the Tskhinvali region before the 2008 war. The construction of a gas pipeline connecting Russia and the Tskhinvali region was launched in 2006 and the work on a gasification project in the occupied region – in 2010.
Dzuarikau-Tskhinvali Gas Pipeline
Dzuarikau-Tskhinvali Gas Pipeline. Source: Gazprom
On March 22, 2006, even before the Russian-Georgian war, the de facto Prime Minister of the Tskhinvali region, Yuri Morozov, met with representatives of the executive power of North Ossetia. The issue of the construction of the Dzuarikau-Tskhinvali gas pipeline was also discussed at the meeting. Shortly after the meeting, the Russian energy company Gazprom began the construction of a pipeline with a length of 162.3 kilometers and the capacity of 252.5 million cubic meters per year. The pipeline started operation on August 26, 2009, a year after the Russian-Georgian war. The commissioning of the main gas pipeline, bypassing the rest of Georgia, made it possible to supply Russian gas to the Tskhinvali region.
Construction of the pipeline. Source: cominf.org
General Gasification Plan for the Tskhinvali Region
In April 2010, Gazprom and the de facto government of the Tskhinvali region signed an agreement which laid the foundation for the cooperation between the parties until 2029. At the same time, Gazprom developed a gasification plan for the Tskhinvali region. The plan envisages expanding the gas infrastructure in rural areas to supply 200 settlements in the region.
In May 2018, another agreement was signed between Moscow and the Tskhinvali region. The agreement on the terms of the purchase and the sale of shares of the joint-stock company Gazprom-South Ossetia entered into force in November of the same year. Under the agreement, as a part of the gasification master plan, Gazprom pledged to spend at least RUB 2 billion by 2023 on the rehabilitation and modernization of the gas infrastructure in the Tskhinvali region. In return, Gazprom became a full owner of its subsidiary Gazprom-South Ossetia. A total of 25% of the company’s shares were previously owned by the de facto government of the Tskhinvali region.
Existing Power Supply System and a Backup Cable Construction Project
The Tskhinvali region only receives electricity from Russia through a single overhead power transmission line. Due to difficult geographical and climatic conditions, the existing power supply system is unstable. That is why Russia plans to build an additional infrastructure in the Tskhinvali region in the coming years.
Existing Power Supply System
Zaramag-North Portal-Java, the only overhead power transmission line to the Tskhinvali region, is located near the Roki tunnel in the Dzomagi gorge. The capacity of the 39-km transmission line is 110 kW. The Russian energy company Inter RAO supplies electricity to the Tskhinvali region through this line. It should be noted that due to unfavorable climatic conditions, there are frequent accidents in this area which may result in power cuts in the section in the Tskhinvali region for several days. The mountainous terrain makes it even more difficult to eliminate such problems.
Additional Power Transmission Line
On September 2, 2020, the Russian Deputy Minister of Energy, Yevgeny Grabchak, and the Tskhinvali region “ambassador” to Russia, Znaur Gasiev, signed a memorandum to increase the energy reliability and the energy security of the Tskhinvali region. The agreement on the technological connection of the power infrastructure facilities entered into force on September 11.
According to the memorandum, a section of the overhead power transmission line in the Tskhinvali region will be connected to the substation North Portal located in Russia with a 4.5-km high-voltage backup cable. The cable will pass through the Roki tunnel. The cost of the project is RUB 1.7 billion.
The project was first announced in September 2019 by the head of the Russian electricity distribution company Rosset. On August 31 of this year, the relevant decree was issued by the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Mikhail Mishustin.
As planned, the construction of the additional power line will be completed in 2022. The backup cable will ensure a stable functioning of the power system in the Tskhinvali region and its service will be available at any time of the year in the case of any damage or accident.
After the 2008 war, oil products to the Tskhinvali region are only imported from Russia. In 2019, the first filling stations of the Russian energy company Rosneft were built in the region.
Import of Russian Fuel
The so-called state-owned company Yugosetnefteproduct has been importing oil products from Russia to the Tskhinvali region since 2014. In May 2017, information was circulated about a fraudulent scheme on the part of Yugosetnefteproduct according to which high-quality gas from the Russian oil company Rosneft was exchanged for diluted gasoline in North Ossetia and finally low-quality fresh fuel was sold in the Tskhinvali region. The head of Yugosetnefteproduct was arrested after the scheme was revealed.
Rosneft Filling Stations
In June 2017, the leader of the Tskhinvali region, Anatoly Bibilov, met with the Rosneft CEO, Igor Sechin, in Sochi. At the meeting, the parties agreed on the construction of Rosneft filling stations in the Tskhinvali region.
Rosneft filling station in Tskhinvali. Source: south-ossetia.info
Rosneft began the construction of its first filling station in the Tskhinvali region in 2019 and it was completed in a few months. A second filling station was built in the same year, completing the first phase of the agreement. As planned, three filling stations will be built in the Tskhinvali region. It should also be noted that in an interview with Russian media in 2017, Gennady Bekoev, the de facto Prime Minister of the Tskhinvali region, said that Rosneft should be operating in the Tskhinvali region without any intermediaries and subsidiaries.