Russian Government Attacks Oil Giant Yukos

Ministry for Nature orders to withdraw licences from Yukos's branch companies

PRAVDA.Ru has already reported about the activities of the Russian Ministry for Nature, which decided to do something about oligarchs-controlled large Russian companies. The ministry paid major of its attention to the private sector, although it had greater problems with branch enterprises of state monopolies.

This does not look like a funny joke, but this is the time, when the Russian oil corporation Yukos celebrates ten years of its activities. The Ministry for Nature decided to "congratulate"  Mikhail Khodorkovsky's company. Alexander Polovotsky, the manager of the state service for the ecological safety control, stated that a workgroup of the ministry recommended to withdraw 24 articles from Yukos's branch companies. This became known at today's briefing of the ministry. Mr. Polovotsky said that in March of the last year, a ministerial workgroup checked the observation of license agreements by Yukos's branch companies in the Tomsk region. The official also clarified that the group checked oil and gas conditions on the base of the work of another department of the ministry - the State service for nature management,  which conducted its works in February. As it turned out, branch companies of the oil giant did not observe the strict adherence to the terms of licence agreements.

The services worked on over 40 licences and determined violations on the majority of them. In particular, oil and gas branch companies did not have necessary technical documentation, did not observe environmental regulations and so on. In addition to that, the services registered the increase of acceptable oil extraction levels in certain oil fields, which might worsen the characteristics of those fields.

As Alexander Polovotsky stated, the mentioned services found out that that geological exploration programs were not strictly observed, while ecological reserve expertise was conducted untimely. Furthermore, the level of oil extraction that was stipulated in contracts did not correspond to the virtual oil extraction level. As a result, the workgroup of the Ministry for Nature recommended to withdraw licences from two branch companies of Yukos. Nine licences are to be withdrawn from TomskNeftegazGeology, and 15 licences are to be withdrawn from TomskNeft. The latter takes a very important position in the oil and gas industry of the region, possessing 25 licences - eight combined ones and 17 licences for exploration and extraction of the hydrocarbon raw material.

The Ministry for Nature eventually asked TomskNeft to get ready the information about several regional major oil fields. That information will then be used in the decision-making process to withdraw licences. However, Mr. Polovotsky added that Yukos's enterprises underpaid taxes to the federal and regional budgets. The Ministry for Nature has already addressed to the Revenue Ministry with a request to calculate the economic damage that was caused by those companies. Fiscal bodies informed that Yukos's arrears to the budget might make up about $110 million. This violation has been officially registered too.

Of course, the administration of the oil giant Yukos rejects the accusations of the Ministry for Nature, claiming that they are ridiculous. Alexander Shadrin, the press secretary of the company, said that the company did not see any legal reason for the ministry to withdraw licenses from oil enterprises of the Tomsk region of Russia. The press secretary stated the Yukos management did not consider the claims of the ministry seriously.  However, Mr. Shadrin refused to comment on the company's problems with taxes.

Yukos is considered to be one of the leading companies of the Russian oil industry. Last year the company became the first and the only Russian organization, which delivered and sold two tankers of the Russian oil to the United States of America. However, some people are not that happy about the company's success.

Regional departments of the Russian Anti-Monopoly Ministry tried to accuse Yukos of pricing conspiracy with other regional oil companies on several occasions. None of those attempts turned out to be successful, since regional divisions of the company managed to prove that they received all pricing instructions from Moscow. Last year Yukos was attacked by Siberian ecologists for the company's intention to build an oil pipeline to China via a sanctuary of the Buryatia republic - Arshan. After FSB agent searched ecologists' headquarters, the latter accused Yukos of setting special services against them. Furthermore, President Vladimir Putin did not like the idea of building a pipeline to the city of Daqing, China. Putin said that such a route was dangerous for Russia's economic security. Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Yukos's owner, tried to have a personal meeting with the president, but it did not help him either. Later, Putin reminded the oil oligarch of some half-forgotten violations that occurred during the privatization period, as well as of Yukos's tax arrears. That was a public condemnation, so certain Russian officials perceived it as a token to persecute Yukos and its owner. It is very hard to find another explanation for  the decision to withdraw licences from the company during its celebrations.

Author`s name Olga Savka