BLACK-CLAD special forces raided BP's Moscow offices yesterday, deepening the British company's problems in Russia after its attempts to salvage an oil exploration agreement in the Russian Arctic collapsed.
The raid, a day after ExxonMobil signed a deal giving it access to fields BP had hoped to develop, was ordered to let bailiffs search for documents in a legal battle over BP's failed bid to partner Russia in the Arctic, a spokeswoman said.
But BP, which has a long history of problems in Russia, denounced the raid and said it feared the search could continue for the rest of this week.
"It is our opinion that the court order under which bailiffs are now in our office has no legal grounds. The office's work has been paralysed," BP Russia president Jeremy Huck said.
"We see these actions as pressure on BP's operations in Russia."
Most of BP's employees in Moscow were sent home or told not to come to work because of the raid, and the offices were sealed off.
The raid highlighted BP's problems in Russia since it fell out with authorities this year over its failed Arctic exploration alliance with state-owned oil firm Rosneft.
A group of rich minority shareholders in TNK-BP, BP's Russian joint venture, have sued BP over the failed alliance with Rosneft.
They objected to the pact, saying BP was obliged to pursue all its Russian ventures through TNK-BP and that they suffered big losses when the venture collapsed shortly after it was announced in January.
The minority shareholders also prevented a parallel $16bn (€11.1bn) share-swap deal between BP and Rosneft going ahead.
Tuesday's deal between Exxon and Rosneft, signed in the presence of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, gives BP's US rival access to potentially substantial reserves in Russia, the world's top oil producer. (Reuters)