BP raises the stakes in Russian battle

The tussle between BP and its partners in TNK-BP took yet another twist yesterday as the oil giant filed a case accusing the Renova Group of breaching the Russian joint venture's shareholder agreement.

The British company and the Alfa-Access-Renova (AAR) consortium are already embroiled in a formal arbitration process over BP's bid for a $10bn (£6.2bn) tie-up with Russia's Rosneft earlier this year.

The Rosneft deal, which included a share-swap and Arctic exploration programme, collapsed because AAR claimed it contravened the TNK-BP shareholder agreement, which states that all business in Russia must be conducted through, or at least offered to, the joint venture.

When the claim was upheld, first by the courts and subsequently by anindependent arbitration panel, BP was forced to pull out. But AAR is still pursuing BP for the attempt on Rosneft. The consortium said last month it could look for damages of up to $10bn. And BP's counter-claim – that Renova has breached the shareholder agreement in a similar fashion by not offering its holdings in Russia's Integrated Energy Systems to TNK-BP – will now form a second strand of the arbitration.

The hearing, to be held in London under Stockholm rules, is not expected for several months.

The spat is just the latest spasm in the relationship between the partners in TNK-BP. In 2008, TNK-BP's then-chief executive, Bob Dudley – who subsequently took over as the boss of BP – was forced to flee the country after a protracted fight for control.