Putin's oil kingpin

The next US sanctions may target Russia’s own Darth Vader

April 15, 2014
April 15, 2014

With increasing signs of Moscow’s hand in eastern Ukraine, the New York Times reports that an apparent new target of US sanctions is the mastermind of Russia’s modern oil industry—Igor Sechin, who turned languid Rosneft into the world’s largest publicly traded oil company.

In going after Sechin, the US would be targeting the “third man” (paywall), a figure whose power once was said to be exceeded only by that of president Vladimir Putin and prime minister Dmitry Medvedev.

But Sechin was more famously called “Darth Vader” and “the scariest person on Earth” for his prickly demeanor in 2006, while supervising the dismantlement of Yukos Oil, at the time Russia’s most successful oil company, after Putin threw its chairman, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, into prison.

Sechin built up Rosneft out of Yukos’s choicest morsels, an act enabled by some of the West’s most powerful capitalists (a primary reason why Putin calls westerners “hypocrites”). The 2006 float of Rosneft was handled by, among others, ABN Amro, Dresdner Kleinwort, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley, Barclays and Goldman Sachs.

But if anyone apart from Sechin himself is anxious about the prospect of his arrest if he travels to the West, it could be oil companies like BP and ExxonMobil. After a deal last year, BP owns 12.5% of Rosneft. ExxonMobil is Sechin’s closest partner in an attempt to crack the oilfields of the Arctic and Bazhenov, the largest shale deposit on the planet.

In other words, the US will be going after Sechin, but also a house that the West itself helped to build.

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