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UpstreamOnline: ‘Russia doesn’t pick on foreign players’

31 May 2007 14:21 GMT  | last updated: 31 May 2007 14:36 GMT
By Upstream staff

Russian Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko went on the defensive today, saying that Russia does not discriminate against foreign explorers, in a bid to quell concern over a series of high level disputes with foreign companies.

“Our approach to foreign and domestic investors is exactly the same,” Viktor Khristenko told Reuters at an energy conference.

Some of the world’s top oil companies have emerged bruised from tussles with Moscow. Shell sold its stake in the Sakhalin 2 project to state gas monopoly Gazprom and BP is under investigation over its Kovytka gas field.

Yesterday ExxonMobil boss Rex Tillerson said he needed more clarity from Moscow on its stance before he considered new projects in Russia.

Khristenko’s move was seen as a bid to soothe fears.

“The best way to cope with those fears is by using the best examples of the last 40 years between Russian suppliers and European customers,” Reuters quoted him as saying.

“Accusations floating in the air carry more risks for the participants on this global process than on the process itself,” he added.

On the Kovykta gas field where TNK-BP, half owned by BP, faces having its licence withdrawn tomorrow, Khristenko said: “It is a huge and difficult field, not only with natural gas but also with helium gas.”

He said any decision by Gazprom over whether to participate or not in the project should be taken from a technological point of view.

Khristenko also said it was not up to the Russian government to decide whether or not to restart oil flowing in the Druzhba crude oil pipeline link to Lithuania’s Mazeiki refinery that pipeline monopoly Transneft shut in July, citing a leak.

“The question now is whether to lay a new pipeline there or to let refineries in Lithuania work as it is today,” he said. “The worst that can happen is the loss of 1-2 dollars in refining margins,” he said, adding the issue was not an energy security one. 

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