Putin's Oil Tsar Heading to Vienna as OPEC Meets


MOSCOW/CARACAS Nov 17 (Reuters) - Top Russian oil producer Rosneft's Chief Executive Igor Sechin will fly to Vienna on Nov. 25, just two days before the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries meets in the city to debate the plunge in oil prices.

The surprise announcement from the state-backed firm raised speculation that Sechin, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, will discuss coordinating with OPEC to try stem the near 30 percent drop in oil prices since June.

Previous overtures between the producer group and Russia, the largest oil exporter outside OPEC, have failed in the past. But oil's drop to a four-year low beneath $80 a barrel has raised the focus on OPEC's Nov. 27 meetings, with traders billing it as the most pivotal since the 2008 financial crisis.

Venezuela said on Monday its Foreign Minister Rafael Ramirez and Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak had met in Moscow and discussed "the need to coordinate actions in defence" of prices in the oil market.

But Russia has so-far made no statement about joining any possible production cut, even as the price drop threatens to tip its sanction-hit economy into recession, with oil and gas revenues accounting for half of the government budget.

Rosneft said the Vienna oil conference was initially scheduled to take place in Venezuela on Nov. 21 but was moved "due to the initiative of the Venezuela side".

OPEC veteran Ramirez, who was energy minister of the cash-strapped Latin American country until September, has been on a global tour of OPEC and non-OPEC nations to strengthen calls for an output cut.


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