MOSCOW, July 22 (RIA Novosti) - British oil major BP is recalling its 60 remaining technical specialists from Russia amid a conflict with Russian shareholders in joint oil venture TNK-BP, the company said on Tuesday.
BP said on its website that all 148 of its technical experts who had been working for TNK-BP, Russia's third largest oil producer, have now been withdrawn to be redeployed in other countries.
Lamar Mckay, BP's executive vice president said: "We are taking this action reluctantly. These technical experts have played a huge part in making TNK-BP one of Russia's most successful oil companies in the past few years."
The staff have been unable to carry out work for TNK-BP since visa complications emerged in March, the statement said. Once this problem was dealt with, they were prevented from returning to their duties by security staff in TNK-BP and subsequently by a court injunction.
Stan Polovets, the CEO of Russia's Alfa-Access-Renova (AAR) consortium of shareholders in TNK-BP, owning 50% in the joint venture, said the decision is unlikely to influence the company's performance.
The company has been hit by a wave of tax, labor and police checks along with visa problems since March. BP has accused its Russian billionaire partners of employing raider tactics in pursuing control of TNK-BP.
The Russian partners have accused BP of limiting TNK-BP's international expansion and employing too many foreign staffers from BP, accusations rejected by the British firm.
TNK-BP was reported to have won in mid-July the latest round of a court battle in Siberia over its use of foreign secondees. The court lifted an injunction banning the firm from using 148 foreign specialists from BP.
Migration authorities have also granted 48 work permits for TNK-BP's permanent foreign employees, including senior managers.
However, prosecutors in Moscow recently demanded more information on foreign employees and secondees.
"Even though the Omsk court recently lifted the injunction ... the litigation in the Tyumen court continues and has made little progress, with no indication that this or other attempts to interfere with BP's ability to deliver technical support will be resolved in the immediate future," BP said.
On Monday, Russia's migration service granted a work permit to TNK-BP's American CEO Robert Dudley, whose dismissal has been sought by the four Russian shareholders. However, the executive still needs to have his visa renewed to be able to work in Russia.