- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 23, 2008

MOSCOW | British energy company BP PLC said Tuesday it is recalling the remaining 60 engineers from its troubled TNK-BP joint venture in Russia amid a conflict with its Russian partners over strategy and control of the oil production project.

In a terse statement, BP said it made the decision “reluctantly,” adding that the foreign engineers have been unable to do their job since March after problems arose with their visas.

Even when their visa problems were resolved, TNK-BP’s security staff refused them entry to the building, BP said. A court injunction, issued after a suit filed by minority shareholder Tetlis, later barred them from working.

The injunction was lifted, but the engineers still cannot return to work at the venture’s oil fields because of ongoing litigation, BP added. They are due to leave the country over the next two to three months, and will go to other BP projects in Azerbaijan, Mexico and the Middle East “where their skills are needed.”

The latest withdrawals bring the total number reassigned by BP to 148, after it earlier diverted 88 of its engineers.

The litigation “has made little progress with no indication that this or other attempts to interfere with our ability to deliver technical support will be resolved in the immediate future,” said BP.

BP has been embroiled in an increasingly bitter battle with its billionaire co-investors at the 50-50 joint venture, a conflict CEO Robert Dudley said last week threatened to tear the company apart.

BP asserts that the Russian investors have resorted to corporate raider tactics to seize control of the company. The Russian investors - collectively known as the Alfa Access Renova group - have called for Mr. Dudley’s removal, accusing him of mismanaging the firm and running it as a BP subsidiary.

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