British Petroleum is reported to have estimated Russian oil reserves at 60 billion barrels.
In the context of the Russian Federal State Secret Act ( the
Act) effective from February 2004 this modest figure does not look strange as the Act classifies information on the country s oil reserves. It appears that Russia is not that rich in oil and gas reserves as it has been imagined by the Russian political elite.
If the current rate of oil exports is maintained, in the foreseeable future Russia may turn into an oil importer.
Perhaps this gloomy outlook made President Vladimir Putin ratify on November 11, 2003 a special law no. 153 amending article 5 of the Act. It classifies all information on the in-place reserves, production and consumption of strategic minerals in the Russian Federation as state secret. A special Russian government regulation of April 2, 2002, no. 210, named a list of sensitive natural resources, which included oil in place and solution gas .
As in this country nobody ever knows anything for sure, let alone about geology matters, just a desire not to bother estimating reserves may be behind the idea to classify relevant information.
Federal Law no. 153 became effective in February, 2004. Since that, various officials, including those of the Ministry of Natural Resources(MNR) and the Ministry of Industry and Energy, Prime Minister and President himself, have been repeatedly mentioning in public or in the media, figures on oil reserves in this country an offence under Federal Law no. 153. The FSB is supposed to inform the public about the charges brought against the officials concerned.
Estimates for Russian oil reserves are regularly published by British Petroleum in ВР Statistical Review. Media-Press Agency on the RusEnerg site referring to BP aired on April 19, 2004 that proven oil reserves in Russia amount to 60 billion barrels, and oil production and consumption as of June 2003 were 7, 698 and 2, 469 million barrels per day respectively. For comparison, proven oil reserves in Iran, not a key producer, according to SHANA, are 130 billion barrels, and oil production and consumption are 3, 729 and 1, 350 million barrels per day respectively.
Maybe the unfavorable comparison has driven the Kremlin dreamers to declare oil information sensitive.
It is indicative, that the amendment to the Act along with reserves also classifies levels of the production and transportation of hydrocarbons, while the list identifies reserves alone. A longer list would provide grounds for imprisoning the entire Russian government , with its analysts, and journalists writing on "hydrocarbons" topic.
Gazeta.ru says that plans to further classify oil industry stuff do not ebb in the government corridors. Jury Trutnev, the new head of the MNR, who has the same karate dan as President Putin, denied accreditation at the MNR to all foreign journalists.
Shareholders in Subnet oil company propose to include a special provision in the company s charter to prohibit a co-owner of the company to have access to state secret information. The provision is likely to affect primarily foreign
management and company owners. It is riding a wave of the current tilt towards secrecy, modification of investment regulations, and crowding foreigners out of oil business. All these could boomerang this country to a scarecrow of aggression, non-transparency and corruption.
By the way, information on emergency situations, disasters, state of environment, hazards to public safety and health, and law violations by public authorities or officials is not regarded as state secret under article 7 of the Act.
Moreover, efforts of public servants to classify such matters are punishable.
Alexander Sutyagin, the BTS Monitoring Project / Bellona SPb
Translated by ZM