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Watch as Russia Descends on New EU Member Croatia

Bottom Line: Now that Croatia has joined the European Union, Russia will work hard and fast to get its foothold in the Balkan country’s energy market, where location gives it better access to Central and Southeastern Europe.

Analysis: Croatia joined the European Union on 1 July, but already in January Gazprom and other Russian energy companies were busy trekking back and forth to Zagreb with energy overtures. Gazprom’s head honchos Aleksei Miller, Aleksandr Medvedev and Aleksandr Dyukov were in Croatia earlier this year, and last month Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin led a delegation to Zagreb to hold talks with the highest levels of Croatian government. There’s a good connection, too. Rosneft’s vice-president is Croatian-born Zeljko Runje. Sechin is also Putin’s energy commission chief, and while he was technically visiting Croatia on behalf of Rosneft, he was in reality there on behalf of Russia’s state-owned companies.

The short version of this story is that Russia appears to be eyeing Croatia as a new hub for its Central European and Southeastern European energy operations. Basically, it is eyeing Croatia as a more convenient bridge to other countries in the region—now that it is a full-fledged EU member. Croatian media downplayed the extent of the talks, but did mention that Rosneft was considering buying a stake in Croatia’s INA oil and gas company, the country’s largest business in any sector. And later in…

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