Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli (L, front) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (R, front) attend a start-of-construction ceremony of the Russian part of the China-Russia East Route natural gas pipeline in Yakutsk, capital city of Saha-Yakutia republic, Russia, Sept. 1, 2014. (Xinhua/Wang Ye)
YAKUTSK, Russia, Sept. 1 (Xinhua) -- Construction of the China- Russia East Route natural gas pipeline started in this eastern Siberia city as visiting Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli and Russian President Vladimir Putin witnessed the welding of the first roll of steel pipes Monday evening.
Live video signals from gas fields beamed in on huge screens in a spacious make-shift shelter as music played through loudspeakers. Some 500 people from China and Russia gathered on the Us-Khatyn field on the outskirts of Yakutsk city for the ceremony.
Zhang and Putin ascended the podium and gave their speeches to the crowd. The ceremony was broadcast live throughout Russia.
Zhang said the East Route of China-Russia natural gas pipeline is the second major on-land energy transport passage between China and Russia. It is a new, important tie of friendship and cooperation between the two countries and a great fruit of the new- era development of China-Russia relations.
The construction and operation of this pipeline, said the Chinese vice premier, will provide secure and reliable clean energy for China's economic development and a long-term stable market for the rich natural gas resources in Russia. The pipeline is also of great significance for the rejuvenation of the traditional industrial base in northeast China and Russia's development of the Far East.
China is ready to work with Russia to implement this project of great strategic significance in a comprehensive way so as to bring the benefits to the peoples of the two countries and generations to come, Zhang added.
Putin thanked Chinese President Xi Jinping for his personal effort to advance the China-Russia gas pipeline project and said the pipeline is the largest construction project in the world. Russia will cooperate closely with the Chinese side to ensure the construction of the project on schedule. Putin said Russia-China cooperation is at a very high level, and Russia is ready to continuously expand cooperation with China in energy and other areas.
According to a contract signed by China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and Russia's Gazprom, the Russian side will export 38 billion cubic meters of gas to China every year for a 30- year period starting from 2018. The Russian part of the joint venture pipeline, officially dubbed "Power of Siberia", will be built by Gazprom with a total investment of 55 billion U.S. dollars.
Through the video system, a Gazprom executive in the Chayandin gas field some 1,000 kilometers away spoke on-line with the leaders and the crowd.
After Putin said the word "start" on the microphone, two technicians wearing black helmet and blue jacket began to weld together two giant steel pipes hanging from yellow cranes in the newly paved field lined with trailers and bulldozers. The black pipes bear the bold, white Russian characters of "Power of Siberia ".
Amid cheers and applauds from the crowd, Zhang and Putin went to the field and signed their names on the pipeline with white marker pens. They shook hands and chatted with the two technicians on the site and, at the latter's requirement, signed on their black tool bags.
The historical moment was marked with singing and dances as staff members of the Chinese and Russian oil and gas companies staged a show of ethnic music and dance on the podium. The two sides do have the reasons to celebrate as large-scale energy deals propelled bilateral trade to the target volume of 100 billion U.S. dollars by 2015 and 200 billion U.S. dollars by 2020.
According to introduction, two major gas fields of Chayandin and Kovyktin in eastern Siberia will be developed to supply natural gas with the China-Russia East Route gas pipeline, which will extend from Irkutsk to Vladivostok and then run through northeast and east China. Construction of the pipeline will take about four years.
Earlier in the day, Zhang met with Putin and conveyed to him the warm greetings from Chinese President Xi Jinping.
During their meeting in Shanghai in May, the presidents of the two countries agreed to establish a "comprehensive energy cooperation partnership" and have personally advanced the cooperation on the East Route of China-Russia natural gas pipeline, which is a large-scale project of historic and strategic significance, Zhang said, adding that the two sides should implement the leaders' consensus and ensure the smooth progress of the project.
According to Zhang, the practical cooperation between China and Russia is comprehensive, strategic, stable and sustainable. He said China is ready to work with Russia to advance bilateral cooperation to wider areas and higher levels on the basis of reciprocal needs and mutual benefits.
Zhang also expressed the hope that the two countries would advance energy cooperation simultaneously in the areas of oil, natural gas, nuclear energy, coal, electricity and new energy, both through the west and east routes and in the upper and lower chain of the industry.
The Chinese vice premier also urged the two countries to further expand cooperation in investment, trade, finance, transport, culture, tourism, high technology, aviation and aerospace, agricultural produces, housing, infrastructure development and local governments, while carrying out even more large-scale strategic projects that is oriented to the future, add new content and impetus to the comprehensive bilateral strategic partnership and make active contribution to the common development of the two countries and to peace and stability of the world.
Putin asked Zhang to convey his good will to President Xi, saying he expects to meet with Xi again soon.