BP may sue its partners in Russian venture

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The Independent Online

Lawyers acting for BP could file legal proceedings against AAR, the investment group with which it jointly owns Russia's TNK-BP, as soon as this week after another weekend of claim and counter claim in the bitter dispute between the oil giant and its Russian partners. BP is considering whether to launch an action against AAR in the Swedish courts, because its original shareholder agreement with the four oligarchs that control the group specifies that arbitration proceedings should be held in the Scandinavian country.

The dispute between BP and AAR has been escalating for more than six months but moved up a scale last week when the oil giant announced that TNK-BP's chief executive, Robert Dudley, would leave Russia after suffering what BP claims is a campaign of harassment being orchestrated by the oligarchs. Mr Dudley had been unable obtain a valid Russian work permit, but while AAR has repeatedly called for his sacking from TNK-BP, it also denies any involvement in the visa difficulties that eventually forced him to leave.

Mr Dudley is now running TNK-BP from a secret location, but may still face further diff-iculties in Russia itself. On Saturday, sources in Moscow claimed that he had been summoned to answer unspecified charges at the Russian State prosecutors' offices. Yesterday, however, the State prosecutors said no such summons had been issued.