Russia allows TNK-BP head to stay

03-07-2008

Russia allows TNK-BP head to stay
The Russian government has apparently backed down after initially refusing to grant a visa to the chief executive of a BP joint venture in the country.

The government has now agreed to speed up work permits to TNK-BP chief executive Robert Dudley and five other senior staff members, after BP claimed its staff were being forced to leave the country.

According to the media reports, 49 visa applications have been accepted in total by state officials.

BP said this was a "first step" and pointed out that unless more visas are issued, half its staff will still have to return to Britain.

Oil giant BP owns half of TNK-BP with four Russian billionaires sharing the other half, following a deal in 2003. But talk of a potential sale has soured the relationship between BP and the Russian shareholders, with both sides fighting for control.

BP has also faced raids at its Moscow offices from the FSB, Russia's post-KGB spy agency.

The problems have led the company to accuse the Russians of using "corporate raiding" tactics from the 1990s, while the Russian shareholders claim the BP chief executive favours BP and blame him for what they say is a poor operating performance.

Although visas may now be issued, the dispute is far from over.

Viktor Vekselberg, an executive director of the joint venture and one of the four Russian shareholders, has called for an extraordinary general meeting to oust Mr Dudley and nominate a replacement, the Independent reports.

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