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Daily Mail: Russian police arrest BP employee and his brother for industrial espionage

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The BP worker has been arrested for industrial espionage

Last updated at 16:39pm on 20th March 2008

Russian security services have arrested an employee of BP’s joint Russian venture and a second man with links to the British Council for attempted industrial espionage.

Russian news agencies reported that the two men – said to be brothers with the family name Zaslavsky and with joint US and Russian nationality – had been detained by the FSB, the successor to the KGB, for attempted industrial espionage.

One man was said to have worked for TNK-BP, a major Russian oil company half-owned by BP, whose Moscow offices were searched by police yesterday.

The British Council in London said that the second man was a member of the British Alumni Club for Russian nationals who had studied in Britain.

“Members of the British Alumni Club are valued contacts of the British Council so we are obviously concerned by these reports,” a British Council spokesman said.

The arrests were said to have been made more than a week ago, on March 12, although they had not previously been made public.

The visit by the Russian police to the TNK-BP offices was being seen as part of a campaign orchestrated by the Kremlin to force the company to give up valuable energy assets.

According to Russian reports, their searches were said to have found business cards of foreign defence officials and CIA representatives.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are in touch with BP. We are monitoring the situation.”

The arrests come at a time when Britain’s relations with Russian are at a low ebb in the murder of the former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006.

In January the British Council was forced to close its offices in St Petersburg and Yekaterinburg in a move linked to the diplomatic stand-off over Russia’s refusal to extradite the main suspect, Andrei Lugovoi, another former KGB man.

The move is likely to spark concerns it could be part of a state-orchestrated campaign to obtain lucrative energy assets.

It also comes at a time when UK-Russia relations are at a low.

State-owned gas monopoly Gazprom has already inflicted wounds on foreign rivals. In 2006, Anglo-Dutch company Shell was forced to cede control of a gas field on Sakhalin Island to the Russian energy giant.

Likewise, TNK-BP, had to relinquish its interest in the Kovykta gas field.

And Moscow has previously shown willingness to use its energy supply as a foreign policy tool, doubling the price of gas to the Ukraine during a bilateral dispute.

TNK-BP is is among the top ten privately-owned oil companies in the world in terms of crude oil production, according to the company’s website.

It was formed in 2003 as a result of the merger of BP’s Russian oil and gas assets and the oil and gas assets of Alfa, Access/Renova group (AAR).

BP and AAR each own 50 per cent of the company, which produces around 2 million barrels of oil a day, but there has been speculation a state-owned company could buy the Russian shareholders out, tightening Moscow’s grip on energy reserves.

The company’s website says: “TNK-BP is headquartered in Moscow and is governed by a multinational management team with experience of working in over 50 different countries.

“A blend of the best international and Russian talent ensures accelerated introduction of world–class technology, project management, corporate governance and best health, safety and environment practices.”

TNK-BP employs about 66,000 people, mostly located in Russia and Ukraine.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/worldnews.html?in_article_id=540641&in_page_id=1811

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