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RA in the Globe and Mail: Petrocan puts hopes on Russian PM’s visit

Robert Amsterdam is quoted in today’s Globe and Mail article on Gazprom and Petro-Canada: However, critics of Mr. Putin’s regime argue that Western companies such as Petrocan are essentially doing deals with the devil by lobbying their governments to soften any criticism of the Russian political scene in order to land contracts there. Lawyer Robert Amsterdam, who represents jailed former OAO Yukos chief executive officer Mikhail Khodorkovsky, said Petrocan’s investment would be hostage to the political whims of Gazprom’s masters in the Kremlin. “They could have an agreement. They could even begin digging and they would still have no guarantee of what is going on,” Mr. Amsterdam said. “Gazprom is not a normal company; it is an extension of the presidential administration.”

From the Globe and Mail:

Petrocan puts hopes on Russian PM’s visitState-to-state element could help bid for Gazprom dealSHAWN MCCARTHYGLOBAL ENERGY REPORTERNovember 29, 2007OTTAWA — Petro-Canada is looking to today’s visit to Canada by Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov to help nail down its long-standing bid to participate in OAO Gazprom’s liquefied natural gas project near St. Petersburg.Accompanied by leading Russian business executives, Mr. Zubkov is making a one-day stop in Ottawa as part of an effort to build greater commercial ties between the two northern neighbours.His visit poses political challenges for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, coming amid increasing political tension between Russia and the United States. The Bush administration has sharply criticized President Vladimir Putin’s crackdown on political dissent in advance of next month’s parliamentary election.After several delays, Petrocan now expects Gazprom to make a decision on the Baltic LNG project – which would feed Petrocan’s planned $500-million Gros-Cacouna regasification plant in Quebec – early in the new year, Graham Lyon, Petrocan’s vice-president for international business development, said yesterday.And the Calgary-based company is counting on political support from Mr. Harper and Trade Minister David Emerson when they meet with Mr. Zubkov, who was recently installed in his post. Mr. Lyon said Export Development Canada has committed to back Petrocan’s bid with financing and insurance. “Like all things that get done in Russia, there is a state-to-state element.””It’s not just two companies working, but Prime Minister Harper and his team have basically got to endorse what we’re all trying to do. Over here, it’s more that ‘business is for business people and politics is for politicians,’ whereas in Russia, the two are intertwined.”State-owned Gazprom, Russia’s largest gas producer, is particularly close to the Kremlin. Its chairman, Dimitry Medvedev, is also a first deputy prime minister and, like Mr. Zubkov, is considered a leading candidate to replace Mr. Putin, who is scheduled to step down next spring.Mr. Medvedev was recently quoted in the Russian press as supporting the development of the Baltic LNG project, although other Gazprom officials are said to favour shipping the natural gas by pipeline to Europe.Mr. Lyon said Gazprom is likely only “weeks away” from a decision on whether to proceed with the project.Petrocan is confident it will serve as a key partner in the Baltic project, with as much as a 24-per-cent equity stake. “Provided we don’t mess up, we’re going to be the key player in the project with Gazprom, and then there’ll be a third party, maybe two, that will join the project,” he said.However, critics of Mr. Putin’s regime argue that Western companies such as Petrocan are essentially doing deals with the devil by lobbying their governments to soften any criticism of the Russian political scene in order to land contracts there.Lawyer Robert Amsterdam, who represents jailed former OAO Yukos chief executive officer Mikhail Khodorkovsky, said Petrocan’s investment would be hostage to the political whims of Gazprom’s masters in the Kremlin. “They could have an agreement. They could even begin digging and they would still have no guarantee of what is going on,” Mr. Amsterdam said. “Gazprom is not a normal company; it is an extension of the presidential administration.”