Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday (29 April) that Moscow saw no need for counter sanctions against the West, but could reconsider the participation of Western companies in its economy, including energy projects.
“We would very much wish not to resort to any measures in response. I hope we won’t get to that point,” he told reporters after meeting with the leaders of Belarus and Kazakhstan.
“But if something like that continues, we will of course have to think about who is working in the key sectors of the Russian economy, including the energy sector, and how.”
The United States on Monday unveiled a new round of sanctions aimed at business leaders and companies close to Putin, while the European Union followed up on Tuesday by naming 15 Russians and Ukrainians to its blacklist, moving to freeze assets and deny visas [read more].
“Regarding the second package, it’s not clear at all what this is linked to, because there is no cause and effect link with what is happening now in Ukraine and Russia,” he said.
Though some Western oil companies left Russia in recent years because of a difficult business climate, US companies Exxon Mobil and Chevron Corp, along with British major BP, have significant ties there.
Igor Sechin, the head of state-controlled Rosneft, was named in the latest US sanctions, though not his company, in which BP holds an 18.5% stake.
In Russia, Exxon Mobil’s net acreage holdings in Sakhalin at the end of 2013 totaled 85,000 acres, all offshore, and its net acreage in the Rosneft joint venture agreements for the Kara and Black Seas was 11.3 million acres. The two companies also have a joint venture to evaluate the development of tight-oil reserves in western Siberia.
In March 2013, Rosneft unit Neftegaz bought a 30% stake in 20 deepwater exploration blocks held by Exxon in the US Gulf of Mexico.
Exxon Mobil declined to comment on Putin’s latest comments on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Chevron Corp owns a 15% stake in the Caspian Pipeline Consortium, which transports crude oil from Kazakhstan through Russia to the Black Sea. The company also sells lubricants in Russia used in engines for ships and agricultural equipment.
Chevron declined to comment on Putin’s latest statements, but said it was monitoring the region closely.
Putin reiterated his accusations that the United States was orchestrating the Ukraine crisis, urging Kyiv and pro-Russia protesters to respect the Geneva agreements, reached on 17 April and intended to defuse the crisis [read more], and sit down at the negotiation table.
A trampoline to space?
In the meantime, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, whose name appears on the US list of persons under travel ban and whose assets are supposed to be frozen, suggested that NASA “bring their astronauts to the International Space Station using a trampoline.”
Since the US space shuttle program ended, Russian rockets are being used to launch European satellites, as well as NASA astronauts.
The crisis in Ukraine erupted after its former President Viktor Yanukovich cancelled plans to sign trade and political pacts with the EU in November 2013 and instead sought closer ties with Russia, triggering protests that turned bloody and drove him from power.
Moscow annexed Crimea in March following a referendum staged after Russian forces established control over the Black Sea peninsula in the biggest East-West crisis since the Cold War.
Pro-Russian militants control buildings in about 10 towns in eastern Ukraine after launching their uprising on 6 April.