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MOSCOW, February 12 (Itar-Tass) - The Caucasus has set record highs in natural gas consumption and gas debts. In 2012, Chechnya led the region in terms of natural gas consumption, the Izvestia writes. Last year, each resident of the republic used almost 1,700 cubic meters of gas, which is three times as high as the average per capita gas consumption in the Russian regions with gas transportation networks, a government source told the newspaper. The Chechen population's gas debt to the suppliers reaches 1.1 to 1.9 billion roubles.
Citing Gazprom's recent intermediary report sent to the government, the newspaper's source said the daughter company of the gas monopoly - Gazprom Mezhregiongaz - had to supply to residents of 64 provinces some 47 billion cubic meters of gas. The average per capita consumption in these regions reaches 513 cubic meters a year. The population accounts for 21 percent of all supplies. The North Caucasus stands out among other provinces, with per capita consumption of at least twice as much, slightly less than 1,700 cubic meters, the government source said. In the Penza region, per capita consumption is at 552 cubic meters.
Chechnya and other republics of the North Caucasus are a source of constant headache for the energy sector. In 2012, Chechnya footed just 65.5 percent of bills (versus 42.1 percent in 2011), a Mezhregiongaz representative said.
The indicator for the North Caucasus is slightly better, at 77.4 percent, yet it is still far behind the average Russian figure of over 90 percent.
In Chechnya, average retail prices of natural gas reached 2,500 roubles per 1,000 cubic meters last year. If Chechnya consumed the amount of gas in 2012 as indicated by the government source, its residents' gas bill payments fell short of 1.9 billion roubles.
"It's no secret that all North Caucasus republics are very unpunctual payers for energy, in actual fact, nowhere do such precedents occur but in that region, Rus-Energy analyst Mikhail Krutikhin said, "if Gazprom were a commercial company, it would long have cut gas supplies to the Caucasus. But there is a clear government instruction whom they should supply gas and from whom they have no right to demand payments.
According to the expert, direct government subsidy programs are implemented in the North Caucasus at the expense of very expensive gas from Azerbaijan which is supplied at world prices. That is why the state monopoly is trying to prevent the construction of direct pipeline from Azerbaijan to Europe, Mikhail Krutikhin said.
Leading expert of the Center for Current Politics Dmitry Abzalov also talks about the political nature of relations between Gazprom and the population of the North Caucasus. "In fact, Gazprom's program in Chechnya is 70 percent social, so it is very difficult to expect it to be profitable."
However, gas suppliers' problems in the North Caucasus are pressing for other fuel suppliers, too. For example, electricity producers have already despaired of getting multi-billion-rouble payments for power consumption in North Caucasus republics. Oil producers, too, have claims to the Caucasus. In this particular case, Dagestan is the most problem republic. In the past decade, 507 illegal connections to trunk pipelines to siphon off gas have been exposed there.