October 2, 2008
Let’s Not Forget Khodorkovsky
By Watkins, Eric
The fate of Russian oilman Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been written about before in this space and he has not been forgotten, especially in the heat of recent reports of Russia's attack on Georgia. Indeed, we have long sensed that his treatment at the hands of the regime of then-President Vladimir Putin, now Russia's prime minister, was a bad sign for the oil and gas industrywhether Russian or international.Events have borne out our foreboding: Khodorkovsky's arrest, trial, and incarceration in a Siberian prison represented some of the earliest indications of how the Kremlin viewed, and would mistreat, others in the oil and gas industry.
Look how things have fared: China and Japan are still being toyed with over the oil that will pass through the projected East Siberia Pacific Ocean pipeline-to say nothing of the line's length, route, terminus, and start date.
Demands on SEIC
Remember also how Russia's state-run OAO Gazprom acquired a 5 0%- plus-one share in the Sakhalin Energy Investment Co. for $7.45 billion under an "agreement" with SEIC shareholders (OGJ Online, Apr. 24, 2007).
Lest we forget, SEIC stakeholdersRoyal Dutch Shell PLC, Mitsui & Co., and Mitsubishi Corp.-were forced to sell their majority stake to Gazprom after the Russian government halted construction on the project for alleged environmental infractions.
More recently, of course, we have also watched as more Russian henchmen pull various levers of the Kremlin's political machinery- well oiled machinery we might add-in their efforts to oust TNK-BP Chief Executive Robert Dudley.
Of course, there's still more to be expected from the Kremlin, especially in the Caspian region. What's next? Well, consider giant Kashagan oil field in the Kazakh sector of the Caspian Sea, which holds 10 billion bbl of reserves.
Plans call for Kashagan oil to be transported to international markets via the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline. While ships initially will be used to transport the Kazakh oil to Baku, plans eventually call for a new pipeline under the Caspian.
Will the new monopolist Russian petrostate sit still for such plans? Will the sun rise in the West tomorrow? Will raindrops fly skyward? Will a succession of Kremlin regimes-whether Tzarist, Soviet, or post-Putin-ever learn to rule without abuse of power?
Of course that brings us back to the Ingodinsky Court of Chita, which last week overruled the appeal for conditional release lodged by lawyers of Khodorkovsky who continues to serve his 8-year sentence in the penal colony near the town of Krasnokamensk in the Chita region.
At the hearing, Chief of Chita Detention Facility Vladimir Klyukin urged the court to reject the appeal, as "Khodorkovsky should remain in the place of detention to reform."
The chief of the Krasnokamensk Colony, where Khodorkovsky had been serving the sentence until December 2006, echoed the words of his Chita colleague. The detention officials even presented a video proving that Khodorkovsky breached regulations. Sure.
Eric Watkins, Senior Correspondent
Copyright PennWell Corporation Sep 1, 2008
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