BP in spotlight over leaked Kremlin energy documents

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The Independent Online

Russia has opened a criminal investigation into several government officials it believes leaked state secrets concerning the energy sector to Anglo-Russian oil giant TNK-BP.

The incident has generated adverse publicity for the company at a time when foreign oil and gas firms are under pressure to cut state-controlled entities into their extraction projects. TNK-BP, a 50-50 joint venture between BP and a Russian oil firm controlled by a group of oligarchs, is putting a brave face on the dispute.

It insists that it always follows the letter of the law when gathering information about legislative conditions in Russia and says it "has no information" about its employees being involved in the incident. Prosecutors said the leak could damage "the energy and economic security of the country".

They contend that "a representative" of TNK-BP was found, in August, to be carrying photocopies of sensitive government documents, allegedly including papers prepared for a cabinet meeting, copies of the Kremlin's policy on investing in the energy sector and details of a privatisation plan for the state energy monopoly UES.

Russian media reported that the representative's briefcase may also have contained sensitive details about the nuclear industry.

A government official admitted to passing the papers to TNK-BP but insists they did not contain state secrets and that he did nothing illegal. Some analysts believe the Kremlin wants TNK-BP's Russian owners to sell out to state-controlled firms.

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