Russia Arrests 2 - WRAP Russia arrests 2 US-Russian citizens; ADDS TNK BP statement
NAME: RUS ARRESTS 2 20080320I
SOURCES: AP TELEVISION/RTR
DATELINE: Moscow, 20 March 2008
RESTRICTIONS: Pt No Access Russia
1. Wide exterior of FSB (Federal Security Service) headquarters
2. Hammer and sickle emblem on the top of building
3 Mid shot of building
4. Close up computer monitor showing FSB web-site
RU-RTR- No Access Russia
5. Various of the search inside the TNK-BP headquarters
6. Alexander Zaslavsky, one of the two brothers detained, giving his name to investigators
7. Laptop computer
8. Close of Zaslavsky, tilt down to hands
9. Close of investigators hands checking papers, filling in form
7. Investigator searching bag
8. Investigator checking papers
9. Officials talking
10. Various of search
11. Wide exterior of TNK-BP Headquarters
12. TNK-BP company spokesman Alexander Mikaelyants coming out of door
13. Cutaway of TNK-BP emblem
14. SOUNDBITE (English) Alexander Mikaelyants, TNK-BP company spokesman, reading from a statement:
"TNK-BP is a commercial organisation engaged in normal and legitimate commercial activities. We are a Russian company and we work successfully on a fair, commercial basis with many other Russian companies, both state and privately owned. We operate strictly within the Russian legal framework and we do not condone any illegal activities, nor do we rely on unfair competitive practices."
15. Cutaway of Mikaelyants holding statement
16. SOUNDBITE (English) Alexander Mikaelyants, TNK-BP company spokesman, reading from a statement:
"The company has never supported any action designed to contradict or damage the interests of Russia. We will continue to cooperate with Russian authorities to resolve any current issues using the established Russian processes and meanwhile, the company continues to operate and conduct its business activities as usual."
17. TNK-BP building
Russia has charged two brothers with dual Russian-U.S. citizenship on charges of gathering secret information aimed at giving foreign oil companies a competitive advantage, the Federal Security Service said Thursday.
The service said one of the men was an employee of TNK-BP, a major Russian oil company half-owned by British Petroleum and that the other, his brother, was an employee of the British Council, the overseas cultural arm of the British government.
A British Embassy spokeswoman, however, said the latter man, Alexander Zaslavsky, was not a council employee, but a member of the "Alumni Club," a group set up by the council for Russians who have studied in Britain.
The US Embassy declined to comment.
Police searched the Moscow offices of BP and TNK-BP on Wednesday.
"We do not condone illegal activities nor do we rely on unfair competitive practices," TNK-BP company spokesman Alexander Mikaelyants said, reading from a prepared statement.
"We continue to cooperate with the Russian authorities to resolve any current issues, using the established Russian processes."
He said the company had never supported any action designed to contradict or damage the interests of Russia.
The searches turned up "business cards of representatives of foreign defence departments and the (US) Central Intelligence Agency," according to a statement from the Federal Security Service, or FSB.
It was not clear whether either of the arrested brothers was believed to have foreign intelligence connections.
They were arrested "in an attempt to receive confidential information, commercial secrets, from a Russian citizen" who was an employee of a leading Russian oil company, the FSB said.
The information was intended "for the use of foreign oil and gas companies with the goal of obtaining a concrete advantage over Russian competitors," the FSB said.
The arrests are likely to raise tensions between the Kremlin and Britain and the U.S.
Russian relations with Britain have been especially troubled since the 2006 murder of renegade FSB agent and Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned with a rare radioactive substance in London.
Russia has refused to extradite the man identified by Britain as the main suspect in the case, and each country has expelled some of the other's diplomats in connection with the dispute.
Russia ordered the closure of British Council branch offices in St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg this year. The council acts as the British government's cultural arm overseas, but Russia contends it is a commercial operation.
Litvinenko was a close associate of Boris Berezovsky, the Russian tycoon who fled to Britain and received asylum after becoming a Kremlin critic. Russia has repeatedly sought his extradition.
On Thursday, Russia charged Berezovsky in absentia with lying in his claims last year that Russian agents had tried to kill him.
TNK-BP came under massive official pressure last year, when government regulators said it was not meeting production targets at a giant Siberian gas field and threatened to withdraw its license.
The Kremlin has increased pressure on foreign energy companies in recent years as part of its effort to consolidate control over the country's largest and most important hydrocarbon deposits.
BP agreed in June to sell its stake at the Kovykta gas field to state gas monopoly OAO Gazprom, but talks on the price have continued.
Some observers suggested that Wednesday's searches could be part of Gazprom's efforts to pressure the British oil company into lowering the price. It added that another state energy company, OAO Rosneft, could also be interested in buying some of TNK-BP assets.
Searches and the confiscation of documents accompanied a massive government crackdown on the Yukos oil company, which ended with an
eight-year prison sentence for its founder, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and the transfer of its assets into state hands.