Divestment by western fossil fuel majors from partnerships in Vladimir Putin’s Russia stumbled onwards today, with observers questioning continuing involvement by TotalEnergies and Exxon.

Shell, BP and Norway’s Equinor have all announced cessation of joint-ventures with local partners, the British-quoted pair after direct pressure from the UK government.

BP’s relinquishing of its 19.75% share in Rosneft followed a reported heated exchange between energy secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and CEO Bernard Looney at the weekend.

As Russia’s biggest oil and gas company, Rosneft’s executive president is Igor Sechin, until May 2012 Putin’s vice prime minister, and an exceptionally close associate since their intelligence days in Saint Petersburg in the 1990s, when Putin advised the mayor of his home city.  As such, Sechin is regarded by Russia watchers as a Slivovik,  one of the close elite of senior Russian security operatives turned business men, acceptable to Putin, himself a former head of the FSB, Russia’s internal security agency.

Sechin is named by dissident Andrei Navalny as among Putin’s 35 closest advisors – in a list recited by LibDem MP Laylan Moran last week under Parliamentary privilege which protects Britain’s parliamentarians from any defamation action.

Per reports, Sechin yesterday publically asked for a cessation of his long-time ally’s onslaught on Ukraine.

From its Paris HQ, TotalEnergies this morning issued a statement condemning Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine, supporting governments’ unprecedented sanctions against the regime, and expressing its solidarity with the Ukrainian people.

But the French supermajor’s statement failed to commit it to a pull-out. It stated merely that “TotalEnergies will no longer provide capital for new projects in Russia”.

Russia last year accounted for 16% of the French company’s gas production. It has stakes of 10% and 20% in two LNG projects in Russia’s north with its partner Novatek – see picture above.  TotalEnergies owns 19.4% of Novatek.

ExxonMobil quit operations with Rosneft in 2018, when Sechin’s organisation fell under expanded US sanctions first imposed four years earlier, in consequence of Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

But the US giant continues to own 30 per cent of the Sakhalin-1 project run by two Rosneft units with Indian and Japanese interests. Sakhalin-1 has exported more than 985mn barrels of oil and 29bn cubic metres of natural gas since production began in 2005, per reports.

Post-filing noteExxonMobil announced on 2 March that it is withdrawing from its operations in Russia.


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