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Oilweek Magazine (Canada): Russia nixes call for disciplinary review of official who targeted Shell project (Russia-Shell)

Dec 14, 2006 12:18:00 PM MST
MOSCOW (AP) _ Russia‘s natural resources minister has rejected a call to reprimand outspoken environmental regulator Oleg Mitvol, who has led a controversial environmental probe against a major Shell-led liquefied gas project, a spokesman said Thursday.

Sergei Sai, the head of state environment watchdog Rosprirodnadzor, had asked Natural Resources Minister Yuri Trutnev, who oversees his agency, to review Mitvol‘s work, citing “inefficiencies.‘‘

Trutnev flatly rejected the appeal.

“He sent the letter back,‘‘ said Trutnev‘s spokesman Rinat Gizatulin. “He said the effectiveness of Mitvol is higher than that of the Rosprirodnadzor leadership and advised Sai to do something about it.‘‘

Had a review found Mitvol‘s work to have fallen below acceptable standards, he would have been blocked from promotion. If such a review was needed a second time, he could be fired, Gizatulin said.

Earlier 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. He noted that his three former bosses had made similar statements before their own departure.

“If the heads of all agencies, including those subordinate to the Ministry of Natural Resources, worked as effectively as Oleg Mitvol, many existing problems would have already been resolved,‘‘ Trutnev was quoted as saying by the RIA-Novosti news agency.

Mitvol has been the face of an environmental campaign against Royal Dutch Shell PLC‘s US$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.

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.

Mitvol has threatened to pull five of Peter Hambro‘s licences. After a meeting with company management Thursday, however, he said that only two licences were likely to be revoked and that there were no grounds to annul its permit to develop the Pokrovsky deposit _ the company‘s biggest, Dow Jones Newswires reported.

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