Russian authorities refuse work permit for TNK-BP's expatriate executives

In ther continuing battle for control over BP's $40 billion equal joint venture in Russia's third-largest oil producer, TNK-BP, senior British expatriate managers may have to leave the country as their requests for work permits have been turned down by Russian authorities.

So far more than half of the requests for work permits have been refused. Following the refusal by Moscow authorities to grant extended work permits, they will need special permission to remain orleave. The executives are expected to appeal against the ruling though there is no sign that the Russian authorities would relent.

Russian tycoon Mikhail Fridman, one of the partners and Russian chairman of the joint venture has charged BP of stifling growth at TNK-BP by treating it as a subsidiary and demanded sweeping changes in management.

He has cited TNK-BP's dismal performance vis-a-vis other Russian energy companies and BP's rejection of 20 international projects on grounds that they would compete with other BP projects. (See: BP, Russian partners locked in battle for control over TNK-BP)

BP on he other hand has claimed that its local partners were seeking sole Russian ownership of the joint venture.

BP reacted to the denial of work permits saying the decision of the authorities was "surprising and disappointing".

The latest Russian move implies that senior foreign executives, including chief executive Robert Dudley, will have to leave Russia by the end of the month unless their visas are renewed (See: TNK-BP's Russian chairman asks British CEO to resign

Of the 66,000-strong work force TNK-BP has under 100 expatriates, under half of whom are BP employees.BP says the loss of these expatriates will affect the performance of the Anglo-Russian venture.