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Kommersant: Russia to Bar Foreigners from Re-Selling Strategic Deposits

16 May 2007

Natural resources officials have drafted amendments which would restrict foreigners’ access to Russian strategic oil and gas fields. The amendments are to be discussed at the government in May or June. The Natural Resources Ministry brushes aside fears and criticism, saying that the new bill will restrict only the re-sale of strategic deposits.

Unofficial sources report that the Federal Guard Service has put up strong opposition to a bill on natural resource and is pushing for more fields to be named strategic.

Under the latest draft of the law On the Subsoil, deposits with reserves of more than 70 million metric tons of oil, over 50 billion cu. meters of natural gas, or more than 50 tons of gold are called strategic fields. Yury Trutnev’s ministry said Tuesday these criteria are subject to change and will be discussed in the government.

ExxonMobile Russia has voiced its concern over changes in law which could be “excessively restrictive”. The company said that the government must guarantee that only new deposits would be called “strategic”, so that foreign investors may feel secure about their current business in Russia.

Shell was not moved by recent reports, saying it does not expect any problems with new amendments.

The Natural Resources Ministry underscores that the amendments will not permit reviewing current contracts. But officials added that the bill would oblige the subsoil plot user to sell their strategic field to a Russian company only. Natalya Komarova, head of the Duma Subsoil Use Committee, assured that all current contracts with foreigner companies would be valid.

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