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The Wall Street Journal: Top Engineer at BP Oil Venture Is Found Shot Dead in Siberia

By GREG WALTERS
October 3, 2006; Page A6

MOSCOW — A top technician at an affiliate of BP PLC’s Russian joint venture was found shot dead in Siberia during the weekend, the second high-profile murder in less than a month to shake Russia’s business community.

The death comes two weeks after the killing of Russia’s top banking regulator, Andrei Kozlov. That murder sent shock waves through Russia’s business and political elite.

Russian news agency RIA-Novosti reported Enver Ziganshin, the chief engineer for oil company Rusia Petroleum, was found by his wife in a sauna at his dacha, or country home, at about midnight Saturday. He had been shot three times, including once in the head, the agency reported, citing local police.

Rusia Petroleum is majority owned by TNK-BP, a joint venture between BP and Russian investors. TNK-BP confirmed Mr. Ziganshin had been killed but said it couldn’t verify any of the details. A spokeswoman at BP headquarters in London referred queries to Rusia Petroleum, which declined to comment.

Mr. Ziganshin’s death comes amid tensions at Rusia Petroleum over its license to produce natural gas at a large Siberian field, called Kovykta. Russian prosecutors threatened last week to revoke the company’s license for alleged failure to meet the production targets for local consumption set out in the agreement.

TNK-BP says it is producing enough gas to meet local consumer demand and the license shouldn’t be pulled. BP hasn’t been able to fully develop the field because plans for exporting gas have been stalled.

There is no evidence linking the death with the dispute over Kovykta.

The circumstances surrounding the killing throw a fresh spotlight on the long-running Kovykta feud at a time when Russian officials are pressuring other foreign investors over their oil and gas holdings. Officials threatened last month to revoke an environmental license for Royal Dutch Shell PLC’s massive oil and gas project on Sakhalin Island.

The threats have triggered warnings from Western governments that Moscow’s heavy-handed tactics risk further eroding the country’s investment climate for foreigners.

TNK-BP owns a 62.4% stake in Rusia Petroleum. Russian financial-industrial group Interros Holding holds 25.82%. The Irkutsk regional government holds the remaining 11.24%.

Write to Greg Walters at [email protected]

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