These fossil-fuel companies have sent more than $15 billion in taxes to Russia since it annexed Crimea, NGOs say
The data was shared amid criticism that Western purchases of Russian coal, oil and gas – most of which are state-owned – have helped fund Russia’s war in Ukraine. These payments underscore how much capital has been transferred to the state by Western energy companies that chose to continue after Crimea was annexed by Russia.
They made a list of nine companies from those regions that had paid the most money. All of these payments were legal, and other multinationals outside the energy sector have also made similar payments to the Russian state.
The three groups that compiled the data said that while the $15.8 billion figure was significant, the identified companies were also responsible for tens of billions more being lost through their stakes in Russian oil and gas companies. dollars flowed to the Russian state.
Until recently, BP held a 19.75% stake in the Russian energy company Rosneft. Rosneft paid Russia $353.16 billion in taxes, fees, royalties and oil profits between 2014 and 2021, Rystad’s data shows.
While BP may not have paid that money directly to Russia, Murray Worthy, head of gas campaigns at Global Witness, said it still has some responsibility for the payments.
“The true amount these companies will have to pay to Russia is much closer to the $100 billion mark, but is obscured by their stakes in Russian companies, such as the stake in oil and gas giant Rosneft, which it said held until just a few weeks ago he told CNN, referring to payments made between Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and late 2021.
In a statement, he added: “Russia’s energy industry is Putin’s biggest earner and companies like BP, which continue to do business with Russia despite the Crimean invasion, should continue pouring money into his war chest have their hands.”
BP announced it would divest that stake just days after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. A number of other fossil fuel companies have since followed suit.
In an email to CNN, BP spokesman David Nicholas said the company did not recognize the $78.4 billion figure, explaining that the only money BP paid directly to the Russian state was $350 million US dollars in taxes for the six years between 2015 and 2020 was unable to provide data for the entire eight year period.
“On February 27, we announced that we would divest our stake in Rosneft, that the two directors nominated by BP would step down from the board effective immediately, and that we would exit our other business in Russia with Rosneft,” Nicholas said.
BP now faces a potential $25 billion loss related to its exit.
Worthy said that while BP could deny responsibility for Rosneft’s payments to the Russian state, “it has always been more than happy to benefit from the billions that have flowed from its stake in the company.”
While the dataset focused on payments made primarily through taxes and fees, much more money is pouring into the Russian state’s coffers from the West in the form of actual oil and gas purchased — used for everything from gas to heating homes to fuel for cars. The true amount of money flowing from oil and gas companies in the West to the Russian state would be far greater than any amount paid in taxes and fees.
“So when Rosneft sells its products for export, the company makes most of its money from those sales transactions,” said Alexandra Gillies, an adviser to the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI), which focuses on resource-rich countries achieving sustainability.
Gillies said that while Western companies’ decision to leave Russia was a step in the right direction, it should have come much earlier.
“It took this invasion of Ukraine for Western oil companies to say, ‘You know what? We no longer want to allow what this regime is doing.’ They should have made that call much earlier, with the invasion of Crimea, or with the repressive nature of the Putin regime, or with the Putin regime interfering in US elections, or with the poisoning of opposition figures, including on British soil,” Gillies said .
“There have been so many moments in the past few years that should have made Western companies stop collaborating with the regime.”
The other four companies listed in the NGOs’ statement are France-based TotalEnergies ($568 million); Norway-based Equinor ($455 million); Austria-based OMV ($246 million) and Switzerland-based Trafigura ($202 million).
Rystad told CNN that its data sets are based on estimates derived from limited reports on taxes.
TotalEnergies also has stakes in Russian oil and gas companies that have paid hundreds of millions of dollars more to the government, according to Rystad data.
CNN asked all of the companies listed, as well as Rosneft, to comment. ExxonMobil did not respond to CNN’s request.
Shell CEO Ben van Beurden also apologized in the statement after the company was criticized for buying a shipment of Russian crude in early March, while other companies and traders avoided the product following the Russian invasion in February.
Equinor has ceased operations in Russia and stopped trading Russian oil. Its spokesman, Ola Morten Aanestad, did not confirm the $455 million figure in an email to CNN, saying it was “too early to make the exit process concrete” when asked if the company was moving permanently out of Russia.
An OMV spokesman, when asked by CNN, would not comment on the amount of money it had transferred to Russia, citing a recent statement in which the company said it was “reviewing its involvement in Russia”.
Wintershall DEA told CNN the company was “unable to verify the figures presented to us” and had “always conducted our business in accordance with all applicable laws.”
A Trafigura spokesman said the company has not paid anything to the Russian government “that comes from fossil fuel production.” The company has a 10% interest in the Vostok Oil project, of which Rosneft is the majority shareholder. The spokesman said “no further monies have been paid” since acquiring the stake in 2020. “Trafigura has not received any dividends or similar payments from its stake in Vostok Oil.”
Lorne Stockman, co-director of research at Oil Change International, said the world must now avoid turning to other autocratic regimes to replace the fossil fuels they are shunning from Russia.
“Fossil fuels are the currency of despots, dictators and warmongers. Our global dependence on oil and gas is not only killing our planet but is also making the world a less safe and less equal place. Big western polluters like BP and Shell have all been too happy to work in countries with over a century of despicable human rights records,” Stockman said.
“Now is the moment to end the fossil fuel age.”