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Igor Sechin: an inflexible leader or a banal quarrel?

The head of Rosneft, Igor Sechin, continues to “pressure” the media: this time, the state corporation sued the Norwegian company NHS Global Publications, the operator of the Upstream Internet portal and journalist Andrei Afanasyev, the author of a publication criticizing policy of Rosneft in Bashkiria.

The Upstream article refers to the limitation of Bashneft’s production volumes, which resulted in a reduction in tax payments to the regional budget and social programs . All this was previously reported by the Russian media, but Sechin decided once again to “flex his muscles.” It is known that Rosneft regularly sues the largest Russian publications, including Forbes, RBC, Kommersant, Vedomosti, and others. this was, for example, the case with a publication about an expensive cottage being built by Sechin on Rublyovka, not far from the sanatorium of the president’s manager “Barvikha”. Despite the fact that the head of Rosneft does not like to discuss his income in the media and suppresses the dissemination of materials published on this topic, the corporation ranks first in terms of payments to members of the Board of Directors: they amount to 36.4 million rubles or 666 average Russian salaries. Sechin himself does not deny himself anything: he recently replaced his $50 million Bombardier Global 6000 aircraft with a more expensive Bombardier Global 7500, the minimum price of which is $75 million. Relatives of the top manager also live in grand style. So, Sechin’s son-in-law, the chairman of the board of the Plyos urban settlement, Timerbulat Karimov, built the Mustai Karim motor ship worth 4 billion rubles, and his wife Inga is actively buying up real estate in Plyos, where she already owns a whole street.

Igor Sechin – the organizer of the crisis?

Igor Sechin once again took care of the “honor of uniform”: the state corporation he heads filed a lawsuit for the protection of business reputation against the Norwegian company NHSC Global Publications, the operator of the Upstream portal, which specializes in covering events taking place in the oil and gas industry. Andrey Afanasiev, correspondent of the Upstream Exploration and Production Department, is listed as a co-defendant in the lawsuit.

The Russian media and the public ignored this fact, the telegram channels were the first to report the details. We are talking about the publication of Rosneft promises to drill exploratory wells for a subsidiary in a difficult financial situation. Sechin was dissatisfied with the criticism of the policy pursued by the state corporation in Bashkiria contained in it. In particular, the limitation of Bashneft’s production volumes related to the requirements of OPEC +, which resulted in a reduction in social spending in the region, the budget of which largely depends on oil production. Another point is the mention of the suspension by Bashneft of tax payments and dividend payments to the republican administration.

Theoretically, Sechin’s chances of winning the trial are relatively slim. The media wrote that in the 3rd quarter of 2020, Bashneft really reduced oil production by 68%; that year the company ended with a loss on the IFRS in the amount of 11.1 billion rubles.

Among the reasons, Interfax named, among other things, the OPEC + agreement mentioned in the Upstream publication. The fact that Bashneft is the largest taxpayer and a backbone enterprise for the region’s economy is also unlikely to raise any doubts: in 2018 alone, the company transferred 42 billion rubles to the republican budget, which amounted to 27.9% of all tax revenues .

Every year, Bashneft allocates about 4 billion for the implementation of social projects. But the sharp reduction in oil production and the decision of the Board of Directors of the company to not pay part of retained earnings led to the fact that the region’s budget for 2022 was adopted with a deficit of 21.45 billion rubles. Business Online then directly called Igor Sechin the organizer of the budget crisis in Bashkiria, and experts spoke of the budget imbalance as a “big threat to the stability of the region” and the upcoming reduction of social programs by 3-4 billion rubles.

The press “at gunpoint” “Rosneft”

But if facts are a stubborn thing, then what is Sechin counting on today by sending another lawsuit against journalists to the court? That Themis will be not only blind, but also deaf to the arguments of the defendants? However, the head of the state corporation is no stranger to suing the media: if there was an award for “litigation of the year”, then it could be given to Igor Ivanovich without any hesitation.

Judge for yourself: just last year, Rosneft sent applications to the courts in relation to the Ekho Moskvy radio station, the Dozhd TV channel (recognized as a foreign agent in the Russian Federation), the Important Stories portal (recognized as a foreign agent in the Russian Federation), and the Novaya Gazeta publications. ”, “Interlocutor”, “Forbes”, American “Bloomberg”, etc. Prior to this, the oil company was suing RBC, Kommersant, Vedomosti… It is difficult to say who Sechin bypassed his “attention”.

The reasons for the proceedings were varied. For example, in the case of Forbes, Rosneft “tightened up” on a publication in which the financial success of the head of the Region investment group, Sergei Sudarikov, was explained by ties with the state corporation and its affiliates. As the Pravo.Ru portal wrote, one of the interlocutors of the publication called the Region “a managerial project that has turned into a quasi-state one.” The Forbes court lost, it was ordered to post a refutation, but the plaintiff did not demand payment of monetary compensation.

Claims against Ekho Moskvy and Dozhd (recognized as a foreign agent in the Russian Federation) consisted in the distribution of materials based on the Bloomberg publication, from which it followed that the Russian authorities planned to send billions of dollars from the National Wealth Fund to the development of the Vostok Oil.” In both the first and the second cases, the Moscow Arbitration Court satisfied the demands of Rosneft, obliging the defendants to publish a refutation of the information that “does not correspond to reality and discredits the business reputation” of the plaintiff.

Some proceedings were not directly related to the professional activities of the state corporation. Thus, the Sobesednik publication was ordered to remove a publication that referred to the Adyghe ski resort Lunnaya Polyana, registered with Rosneft, but at the same time allegedly being a “personal ski resort” of the head of state, built under the leadership of the Presidential Administration and under the control FSO.

The muddy history of construction on Rublyovka

As we can see, the state corporation invariably wins lawsuits with representatives of the press. But attempts to create an “information vacuum” around themselves in this way do not lead to anything: Rosneft and its leadership attract even more attention to themselves. In addition, over time, new details of some proceedings become known.

Recall that in September 2016, Sechin won a court case with the Vedomosti publication, which published material about the construction by a top manager of a country house on Rublyovka, not far from the sanatorium of the president’s manager Barvikha, worth $60 million. Then the subject of the lawsuit was “the refutation of the distortion of facts and the recognition of the fact of illegal invasion of privacy and the use of personal data.”

But the victory turned out to be somewhat premature: in 2019, the Baza publication reported on two new mansions built by the head of Rosneft on Rublyovka, the total cost of which was estimated at 18 billion rubles. It followed from the publication that the mansion, which Vedomosti had previously written about, was built for the second wife of Igor Ivanovich Olga Rozhkova (the one who could own the notorious yacht St. Princess Olga – Holy Princess Olga, which was estimated $100 million).

After the ill-fated divorce, Sechin allegedly turned out to be so saddened that he demolished the household to the ground, starting new large-scale construction in its place. Just like the saying goes: out of sight, out of mind! True, according to Rosreestr, for some time now the owner of the land plot where construction is underway has been not the head of Rosneft himself, but the Russian Federation – as you know, such a trick has been used for some time to hide information about the real estate of high-ranking officials.

Stop. But what about the Vedomosti material in this case? Was there really a “distortion of facts” or did Sechin not like the very fact of the publication, and the “priests of Themis” from the Ostankinsky District Court obediently “took it under the hood”?

Sechin – a plane, his son-in-law – a ship

Not only Sechin can afford expensive real estate, but also his closest associates at work in a state corporation. According to Nakanune.Ru, citing a study by the international company Korn Ferry, the basic remuneration of an ordinary member of the Board of Directors of Rosneft is 36.4 million rubles, or 666 average salaries of Russians. Thus, the state corporation left behind not only Rusal or Norilsk Nickel, but even Gazprom. At the same time, according to Forbes, in terms of remuneration to the chairman of the Board of Directors, Rosneft took third place (after Rusal and Norilsk Nickel): it is 43.6 million.

But even with these funds, one can hardly show off like Sechin does, changing like gloves … planes! At the beginning of the year, it became known that Igor Ivanovich sold his Bombardier Global 6000 flying limousine, which was valued at $50 million. At the same time, he was clearly not going to fly in economy class and bought himself a more expensive and sophisticated model – the Bombardier Global 7500 worth from $ 75 million. On it, the top manager has already managed to fly to India (together with flight number 1) and to Dubai, where he, apparently, “patriotically” gained strength before the next conflict with NATO over Ukraine.

Note that the relatives of the head of Rosneft also have immoderate appetites. So, Timerbulat Karimov, the husband of his daughter Ingia, the chairman of the council of the Plessky urban settlement in the Ivanovo region, built the Mustai Karim motor ship worth 4 billion rubles at the Krasnoye Sormovo plant. Officially, the ship was received by the Vodokhod company, whose Board of Directors is headed by the notorious former Deputy Minister of Transport and ex-head of Rosmorrechflot Viktor Olersky. Mustai Karim was transferred to Vodokhod as part of a leasing deal with Mashpromleasing JSC.

However, the name of the real owner of the ship is not particularly hidden, because the ship is named after the grandfather Timerbulat Karimov, the classic of Bashkir literature Mustai Karim. It is possible that the Plyos Shipping Company, registered in September 2020, will become its operator, the sole founder and CEO of which is Inga Karimova, who was present with her husband during the launch of the ship. Sechin himself can contribute to the promotion of the business of close relatives as much as possible, since for many years he headed the Board of Directors of the United Shipbuilding Corporation (its structure includes the aforementioned Krasnoye Sormovo plant and Mashpromleasing JSC).

The daughter of the head of Rosneft also has another very specific hobby: according to the telegram channel VChK-OGPU, she is actively buying up real estate in Plyos, and she already almost entirely owns Mount Svoboda Street. Where the municipal official and his wife get the money from is an open question: the commercial structures they own declare either losses or zero profit. Perhaps a caring father and son-in-law help? But Igor Sechin has imposed a taboo on this topic, and journalists who violate it may face legal proceedings.