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Reuters: Russia ecology watchdog tenders resignation: report: Oleg Mitvol – ‘Shell’s grave-digger’

Fri Jan 18, 2008 12:19pm GMT 

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s most vocal environmental inspector whose crusades were the scourge of Western companies including oil major Shell, has tendered his resignation, Itar-Tass news agency reported on Friday.

Oleg Mitvol, deputy head of the state Rosprirodnadzor agency, part of the natural resources ministry, has submitted his resignation to minister Yuri Trutnev, Tass said, quoting the resignation request but giving no reason for the move.

A ministry spokesman declined to comment.

Last week, Russian media reported that Mitvol’s boss, the low-key head of Rosprirodnadzor Sergei Sai, has also tendered his resignation, which the government has yet to accept. Mitvol had been widely expected to take over the job.

Mitvol came to prominence in 2006 when he threatened to hit Royal Dutch Shell with fines of billions of dollars for what he said were ecological violations on Sakhalin island, off Russia’s Pacific Coast.

Many analysts said Mitvol’s ecological campaign was a fig leaf to cover up a drive by the Russian state to take back control of a lucrative energy concession.

The dispute was resolved when Shell sold control in its $22 billion Sakhalin-2 project to Russian gas giant Gazprom. The Russian media dubbed Mitvol “Shell’s grave-digger” because of the affair.

Mitvol also repeatedly threatened to withdraw licenses from other Western companies working in Russia, including oil firm Imperial Energy, gold miners Highland Gold and Peter Hambro, sending their shares sharply down.

(Reporting by Tanya Mosolova; editing by James Jukwey)

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