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Business Week: Official wants review of Shell critic

The Associated Press
December 14, 2006, 10:32AM EST
MOSCOW

The head of Russia’s environmental watchdog has called for an official review of his outspoken deputy, Oleg Mitvol, who has led a controversial environmental probe against a giant Shell-led liquefied gas project, a spokesman said Thursday.

Mitvol has been the face of an environmental campaign against Royal Dutch Shell PLC’s $22 billion Sakhalin-2 project, which observers say is aimed at securing control for state gas monopoly OAO Gazprom.

Despite reports that a deal on Gazprom’s entry into the project is imminent, Mitvol has kept up the pressure, promising to sue the operator, Sakhalin Energy, for up to $30 billion in environmental damages.

Sergei Sai, the head of state environment watchdog, Rosprirodnadzor, has asked the Natural Resources Ministry that oversees his agency to review Mitvol’s work, citing “inefficiencies,” said ministry spokesman Rinat Gizatulin.

Gizatulin said the ministry had not taken any decision on the letter. If a review found Mitvol’s work to have fallen below acceptable standards, he would be blocked from promotion. If such a review was needed a second time, he could be fired, Gizatulin said.

Mitvol said in televised remarks that he would fight any decision against him by the ministry. “I will protect my rights — including through the courts,” he said.

Mitvol’s high-profile probes have gone beyond Sakhalin to include Russia’s No 1 oil producer OAO Lukoil and, most recently, London-listed Peter Hambro Mining PLC.

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