Big polluters in the West contributed to Putin’s war chest
25th March 2022, LONDON / NEW YORK — Just eight of the world's biggest energy companies helped enrich Vladimir Putin’s war chest to the tune of $95.4 billion (USD) in the seven years after Russia annexed Crimea, according to new analysis by environmental groups Global Witness, Greenpeace USA and Oil Change International.
In those seven years, projects backed by BP were responsible for the highest payments to Russia, totalling $78.4billion. This amount includes payments made as a result of BP’s stake in the Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft, although BP denies responsibility for Rosneft payments to the Russian government. Excluding this amount BP’s payments were $817 million.
Shell was next highest with payments to Russia at $7.9 billion, whilst Exxon paid $2.8 billion, which includes their Sakhalin-1 project, a joint venture with Rosneft.
Western oil and gas companies have come under sustained pressure to pull out of Russia following Putin’s invasion of Ukraine this year. The French firm TotalEnergies has continually ignored the chorus of calls to end its Russian investments, whilst the Austrian firm OMV has said it is still assessing a full divestment. Although other companies like BP and Exxon have recently committed to withdraw from Russian operations, these huge payments since the annexing of Crimea have given Putin both huge revenues and the legitimacy to escalate his designs over Ukraine.
Murray Worthy, Gas Campaign Leader at Global Witness, said:
“BP and other big energy companies are now trumpeting their withdrawals from Russia but do they expect us to forget the almost $100 billion they’re responsible for putting into Putin’s pockets in recent years? Whilst BP might deny accountability for the consequences of its stake in Rosneft and the payments made to Putin's war chest, it has always been more than happy to benefit from the billions that have flowed from its involvement in the company. The Russian energy industry is Putin’s biggest earner and companies like BP that turned a blind eye to the Crimean invasion, continuing to support money pouring into his war chest, should surely be questioning whether they now have Ukrainian blood on their hands.”
Lorne Stockman, Research Co-Director at Oil Change International, said:
“Fossil fuels are the currency of despots, dictators, and warmongers. Our global reliance on oil and gas is not only killing our planet, but also making the world a less safe and equal place. Big Western polluters like BP and Shell have been all too happy to work in countries with despicable human rights records for over a century. They must avoid looking to other autocratic regimes to replace the resources they have foregone in Russia. Now is the moment to end the fossil fuel era.”
Tim Donaghy, Research Manager at Greenpeace USA, said:
“If we want to build a world based on equity, peace and stability then we must urgently accelerate the move towards renewable energy. This is the single best way to cut off both the money and soft power yielded by the likes of Putin to carry out the sort of atrocities we are now seeing in Ukraine. And when energy companies try to fight this transition, politicians should remember the billions of dollars they have given to Putin.”
When asked for comment on these findings, BP disputed the findings in relation to attributing a share of Rosneft’s payments to the Russian government to the company. It stated that “we simply do not recognise the numbers you cite or, indeed, any suggestion that bp was somehow “responsible for paying” Russia “an estimated $78.4” billion since 2014”.
Trafigura stated that it had made no direct payments to the Russian government as a result of its share in an oil project. Equinor, ExxonMobil, OMV and Total did not dispute the figures provided, Wintershall Dea stated it was not able to verify our findings, and BP, Equinor, OMV and Shell referred to their payments to governments data as part of their annual financial reports. Shell stated that it was unable to provide comment on the figures in this briefing in the timeframe proposed.
Global Witness, Greenpeace USA and Oil Change International are calling on world leaders, particularly those in the United States and Europe, to recognise the huge, direct financial contribution of fossil fuel companies based in their countries to Putin’s war efforts, in the years leading up to it. The groups are therefore calling on world leaders to cut those companies out of the conversation on energy transition and to speed up the move towards renewable energy to swiftly deliver a fossil-free world.
Estimated Payments to Russian Government by Selected Companies 2014-2021 (Billion USD)
|Estimated Direct payments||Estimated payments by Russian companies attributed via minority interest||Total|
- $95.4 billion represents the total estimated revenues paid by major European and American oil and gas companies to the Russian government since 2014, based on estimates from Rystad Energy, one of the world’s leading energy data service companies. This figure includes royalties, government profit oil, export duties, bonuses, income taxes, and other taxes and fees. It also includes payments and revenues derived from minority interest shares in Russian companies as well as those from assets directly owned by these companies.
- All companies assessed were approached for comment on this analysis. More detail on the company’s responses to the findings can be found at: https://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/fossil-gas/ehttps://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/fossil-gas/energy-companies-100bn-russia