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BP under pressure over fuel for Russian military

BP may be profiting from Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine through its stake in Rosneft, a major fuel supplier to Russia’s military. 

UK business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng today summoned Bernard Looney, chief executive of BP, to a crisis meeting over Rosneft, which is 20 per cent-owned by BP and operates refuelling stations at Russian military airfields.

Earlier SourceMaterial reported that Looney sits alongside Putin and sanctioned oligarchs on the board of an organisation that organised publicity stunts for the Russian president. 

Rosneft says on its website that its “domestic consumers include the Russian Ministry of Defence”. In late December, as Russian troops massed on the Ukrainian border, the company’s Rosneft-Aero arm issued a tender seeking a contractor to deliver aviation fuel to a military air base northwest of Moscow, according to a document seen by SourceMaterial.

Deliveries of jet fuel to Russian forces rose sharply in the weeks preceding the invasion, an analysis by Energy Intelligence shows. On 8 February Rosneft-Aero posted a job advertisement for a “director of the refuelling complex” at Sescha, a military airbase about 150km from the Ukrainian border and roughly halfway between Moscow and Kyiv.

Duties for the position, which comes with a monthly pre-tax salary of 140,000 to 150,000 rubles (around £1,200), include “cooperation with the command of the aviation military unit at the airfield for the provision of aviation fuel supply services”.

According to the US website Global Security, Sescha is home to Antonov AN-124 and Ilyushin Il-76 military transport aircraft, which can be used to move heavy equipment or troops. 

“It is totally shocking that BP—a major British corporation—is fuelling the invasion of Ukraine and profiting from Putin’s maniacal aggression,” said Margaret Hodge MP, who chairs a cross-parliamentary anti-corruption group. “I fully expect BP to do the right thing by swiftly divesting from Rosneft and severing any business ties to any companies or individuals linked to Russia’s military action.”

BP did not respond to questions from Sourcematerial about Rosneft’s military ties. 

Rosneft has been supplying the ministry of defence since at least 2014, according to its website. In December 2020, in a speech to the board of the Russian defence ministry, Putin outlined Rosneft’s role in constructing bulk fuel terminals at military airfields. 

A web page created in 2019 for Rosneft’s Nefteroduct refinery in Moscow says: “The company has a system of acceptance of products by the military mission of the 9th Military District of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation.”

Companies in the Rosneft group were sole suppliers to “the Russian Ministry of Defence, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, the Russian Emergencies Ministry, the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Russian Guard”, according to a 2017 report posted by the company in Russian. 

The company was at the time the sole supplier of motor fuels to the National Guard, which has since been deployed on the border with Ukraine. 

BP has two seats on Rosneft’s board of directors, which are held by Bernard Looney and his predecessor Bob Dudley. The board is chaired by Gerhard Schroder, the former Chancellor of Germany, who earns a $600,000 salary. 

The 20 per cent-shareholding arose out of a 2012 cash-and-shares deal in which Rosneft acquired BP’s TNK-BP joint venture. 

 

Photo: Russian miltiary AN-124 by Anna Zvereva, licensed under Creative Commons

 

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