Visa Ban on Russian Energy CEOs Could Backfire


MOSCOW, March 14 (Reuters) - A possible ban on visas for the heads of Russia's two biggest energy firms, Rosneft and Gazprom, may hamper their international partnerships but also harm their Western partners and push the two towards the East.

Rosneft, the world's largest listed oil company by production and reserves, and Gazprom, the top natural gas producer, rely heavily on overseas markets for their sales. Their chief executives travel abroad frequently to promote their businesses and strike deals with international partners.

Germany's Bild newspaper reported on Friday that visa bans threatened by the European Union and the United States in retaliation for Russia's seizure of Ukraine's Crimea region would include Gazprom head Alexei Miller and Rosneft head Igor Sechin.

European officials earlier said that the EU list includes 120 to 130 names of senior Russian officials who could be subjected to travel bans and asset freezes.

Both Sechin and Miller worked together with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the 1990s and are the members of what is seen as Putin's inner circle.

"This is stupid, petty and obvious sabotage of themselves most of all," Rosneft spokesman Mikhail Leontyev said, when asked about the threat of EU visa sanctions. "I think this would primarily affect Rosneft's business partners in the West in an extraordinary way."

Miller frequently travels to Europe and on Thursday was in Berlin to celebrate an anniversary of cooperation with German utility E.ON.


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