Buried at Sea: Grigory Pasko’s Nord Stream Film

As our regular readers know, correspondent Grigory Pasko spent much of last year touring the length of the planned route for the Nord Stream pipeline, writing articles, interviewing communities which would be affected, and even making a short documentary film.  .  Below is a translation of a review about the film, Buried at Sea, published in the German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau.  If you visit the paper’s site, you can watch two clips from the film.

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Film about the Baltic Sea Pipeline
“Buried At Sea”
By Viktor Funk

Oleg Tishin seems tired, depleted, exhausted – he is the head of government at Rayon Babayevo in northern Russia, where the first section of the Baltic Sea pipeline North Stream was opened amidst fanfare in December 2005. When the Russian journalist Grigory Pasko interviewed him for his film “Buried at Sea” in June 2007 there was nothing left of the joy surrounding the gas lines. Tishin explains that at the beginning there was a lot of engagement for the project, because it promised jobs and the people of the village hoped to finally get a gas connection. Disillusionment quickly replaced their hopes, as the gas was destined for the west and the villagers of Babayevo had to continue to use their forest for their energy needs.

Grigory Pasko has travelled the complete length of the gas pipelineoverland, documenting how the pipeline construction has affected theenvironment and the people who live along its length. He then met withFinnish, Swedish and German politicians, mayors and environmentalactivists to talk about the Baltic Sea pipeline. Pasko is an ex-marinecaptain and military journalist, In the 1990s he shocked the world withhis video footage of the Russian marines sinking chemical weapons inthe Japanese Sea. After two consecutive prison stays he continued towork as a critical journalist in Russia although he regularlyencounters rejection from head editors in the Russian media. His nameis a danger for the newspaper, Pasko said of himself in a conversationwith the FR.

The film about the pipeline was supported by Robert Amsterdam.Amsterdam is a lawyer of the ex-Yukos owner, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, whois today the most famous prisoner in Russia. Pasko had regularlywritten analyses on developments in Russia for the lawyer’s blog. Paskotravelled the North Stream route overland during several months in 2007and 2008, and later travelled along the coast of Sweden, Finland andGermany.

Pasko found a contrast to the disappointed Oleg Tishin in Russia onthe Swedish island Gottland, on the coast of which Gazprom plans toconstruct a service platform for the laying and maintenance of thepipeline. Although Gazprom did not spend any money for environmentalprotection on Russian lands, hundreds of thousands of dollars werespent on the Swedish island Gottland for things that would not seem tohave anything to do with the company. These include 500,000 dollars forthe biological faculty at the University of Gottland and more money forsea archeologists investigating a Danish trade ship from the 16thcentury off the Swedish coast.

The suspicion that sponsoring in Gottland could have a bribecharacter is strongly refuted by Inger Harlevo in Pasko’s Film. Thepolitician, councilor in Gottland administration, sees no connectionbetween Gazprom sponsoring and Moscow’s plans for the North Streampipeline.
Plans for the platform are no longer on the table, says a Green Swedishpolitician in Pasko’s documentation. The platform was too great of ahurdle in Swedish parliament. Yet agreement has still not officiallybeen given by Sweden, because it is waiting for a report onenvironmental effects from pipeline construction.

Sweden and Finland, which also wants to make its approval dependenton the results of this environmental report, are still waiting. TheNorth Stream pipeline consortium, whose largest shareholder is Gazprom,wanted to deliver the report at the beginning of January, 2009. OnDecember 17, 2008 a North Stream representative announced that thereport will be ready in March.

In Pasko’s film Oleg Tishin already commented on environmentalimpact reports from Gazprom: “They always have all the papers, thatalways say everything is fine,” says Tishin, “but then they just dumptheir construction waste in our landfill. And now our administrationhas to pay environmental penalties for this landfill.”