March 20, 2019 / 4:24 PM / a month ago

Russia's Putin meets heads of world's top oil traders, BP in Kremlin

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin met on Wednesday heads of the world’s top oil traders Glencore and Vitol, as well as BP’s chief executive, among others, promising favourable conditions for business.

Russian President Vladimir Putin reacts during a meeting with businessmen and officials in Moscow, Russia March 20, 2019. Alexander Nemenov/Pool via REUTERS

The meeting, attended by BP CEO Robert Dudley, Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg and Vitol’s Chairman Ian Taylor, among others, is a rare gathering in the Kremlin of some of the world’s most influential energy players.

Russia, one of the world’s top oil producers and exporters, has been under Western sanctions since 2014, which include restrictions on some financial instruments and development of some types of energy resources by foreign firms.

Putin, in opening remarks before the meeting was closed to reporters, said that Russia “is doing all (that’s) necessary so that foreign investors, our partners, friends feel themselves as comfortable as possible on the Russian market”. He did not elaborate.

Dudley, once the head of TNK-BP, a Russia-British joint venture bought by Rosneft in 2013 for $55 billion (41.6 billion pounds), last met Putin in February. BP now holds a 19.75 stake in Rosneft, whose CEO Igor Sechin was also present on Wednesday.

Glasenberg and Taylor are rare visitors to the Kremlin, though they usually attend the economic forum in St Petersburg.

Glencore has a wide range of interests in Russia from oil trading to aluminium and power assets, while Vitol is active in oil trading as well. Putin has invited all the company bosses to take part in an economic forum in St Petersburg, a ‘Russian Davos’, in June.

The Kremlin meeting comes amid talk that U.S.companies could boycott Moscow’s showcase forum in June following Russia’s arrest of prominent U.S. investor Michael Calvey on embezzlement charges. Calvey denies the charges.

The Kremlin called Wednesday’s gathering a ‘meeting with representatives of the UK business circles’.

Russia-UK relations also turned frosty after Britain accused Moscow of the poisoning of a former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal - accusations Moscow denies.

“As a group here we are grateful for the opportunity to participate in the effort in restoring trust and mutually beneficial relationships between our two countries,” Dudley said in his opening remarks.

Remarks by Glasenberg and Taylor were not made public.

Reporting by Polina Nikolskaya, Maria Vasilyeva and Tom Balmforth; Writing by Katya Golubkova; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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