A former cabinet minister and close personal friend of George Bush may be appointed head of Russia's leading state oil company, it was reported yesterday.
Donald Evans, who was until early this year US commerce secretary, has been offered the position of head of the board of directors of Rosneft by the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, the respected business daily, Kommersant, reported yesterday.
If the appointment is confirmed, Mr Evans would be the second former senior foreign official to join the Kremlin's expanding energy empire. Last week, the former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder accepted a job as chairman of the North European Gas Pipeline, a project to ferry gas between Russia and Germany that he helped broker.
A source close to Mr Evans in Washington last night declined to confirm the report, but said the former US official had met President Putin during his visit to Moscow last week. "He does not disclose the contents of private meetings," the source said, adding that Mr Evans had met other officials in the hope of improving business ties. Kommersant reported that Mr Evans also met the head of Rosneft, Sergei Bogdanchikov.
When asked about the report hours after it was published, the deputy minister for economic development, Andrei Sharonov, said the appointment of well-known foreign specialists to head Russian companies was "a positive fact that kills several birds with one stone".
Since Mr Putin's re-election in 2004 the Kremlin has been hastily expanding the state's energy companies. Rosneft recently bought part of Yukos's production arm for what some regarded as a low price after state bailiffs seized it in their assault on the business empire of Kremlin critic and billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Gazprom, Russia's biggest company, which is valued at £55bn, has also seen rapid expansion, including the NEGP.
Analysts believe the Kremlin is seeking to re-establish its position as a superpower by placing Russia's massive energy resources directly under its political control. Yesterday Moscow flexed its muscles over one unruly pro-western neighbor, Ukraine, with Gazprom saying it could cut gas off from January 1 if price negotiations were not resolved.
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