Russian de-facto gas monopoly Gazprom is axing hundreds of jobs at its overseas trading and export offices and moving them to St Petersburg, according to company sources.
A Gazprom source said its move was part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s policy to repatriate capital to reduce exposure to sanctions and boost the domestic economy amid rising tensions with the west.
The government-run gas giant has its headquarters in St Petersburg.
“In Russia, this story can be sold as a job creation exercise on home turf. This is useful, especially ahead of the presidential election [on Sunday],” the source said.
The reorganisation comes amid worsening bilateral ties with Britain, where Gazprom has by far its largest trading office. UK Prime Minister Theresa May this week blamed Russia for the attempted murder of a former Russian double agent in the English city of Salisbury.
The reorganisation was, however, ordered months before the current crisis, Gazprom insiders said.
“This work is aimed at strengthening the company’s position abroad,” a Gazprom spokesman said, adding that it was too early to comment in more detail.
Gazprom’s overseas trading and export offices have around 2,000 staff, of which around 1,000 are in London. It has smaller offices in Paris, Houston, Singapore and Germany.
The reorganisation is expected to more than half the number of international staff, with a corresponding expansion expected in St Petersburg.
According to the state-controlled media, Gazprom’s chief executive Aleksei Miller has guaranteed gas deliveries to Europe, as long as Ukraine does not steal gas as it passes through the war-torn former ally.
Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak also said Gazprom’s natural gas supplies to Europe were hitting a new high.
Miller reportedly told Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev that the Stockholm arbitration ruling ordering Gazprom to compensate Ukrainian utility Naftogaz with a payment of US$2.56 billion was “an asymmetric decision that violated the balance of interests of the parties under contracts, for delivery and transit”.
He was quoted saying by the Russian media that Ukraine was yet to prove it could become a reliable partner in gas transit. “In the current situation, it is important to note that here the Ukrainian side must prove the economic efficiency and expediency of continuing the transit of gas through the territory of Ukraine and we are ready to listen and consider such a proposal if such proposals will be made.”
The EU has offered to mediate between the warring neighbours.
Gazprom is expanding its pipeline network rapidly. Picture credit: YouTube