United National Movement member, Roman Gotsiridze, in his speech before the Parliament of Georgia, stated: “The President of Rosneft and the so-called President of South Ossetia met each other in Sochi. They signed a memorandum which envisions launching Rosneft’s activities in the Tskhinvali region. You are well aware that Rosneft violated the Law of Georgia on Occupied Territories, carries out illegal work in Abkhazia and purchased 49% of the Poti terminal. With Rosneft’s already vast ownership of wealth on the territory of Georgia, the company arrogantly claims that it is going to violate the country’s legislation again. When Rosneft entered the country, the Government of Georgia made a promise that it would study the legal aspects of this act. A trilateral commission was established but two-and-a-half years have already passed since then. In fact, this commission has not prepared any kind of assessment at all. As a result, according to the information of our confidential source, Rosneft is now planning to purchase the control package of the Poti terminal’s shares.”
FactCheck took interest in the accuracy of the statement.
On 23 June 2017, a meeting was held between the head of Rosneft, Igor Sechin, and the so-called President of South Ossetia, Anatoli Bibilov. According to the agreements reached at that meeting, Rosneft will build several petrol stations in the Tskhinvali region. However, of note is that the aforementioned decision was made not in Sochi but at a meeting between the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, and Anatoli Bibilov which was held in May 2017.
Rosneft has been operating on the territory of Georgia since 2009. Specifically, in 2009 the company concluded a contract to extract oil and natural gas with Rosneft being given a permit to conduct oil drilling work on Abkhazia’s continental shelf based on the agreement. At the same time, the company owns three petrol stations on the territory of occupied Abkhazia. FactCheck has previously written about this topic.
By doing so, Rosneft has been violating not only Article 5 and Article 6 of the Law of Georgia on Occupied Territories since 2009, which clarify that purchasing real estate or any other kind of economic (entrepreneurial or non-entrepreneurial) activities are prohibited and require a permit from the Government of Georgia, but Article 2 of Georgia’s Criminal Code as well which reads that economic activities on the occupied territories are punishable by a fine or imprisonment from three to five years. Additionally, the company violates the Law of Georgia on Maritime Space because Rosneft has been carrying out oil drilling work on the continental shelf within Georgia’s sovereign boundaries since 2010.
This fact, however, did not impede Rosneft from later continuing its activities on Georgian-controlled territory. Specifically, in December 2014, Rosneft purchased 49% of the shares of the Petrocas Energy Group with the intention of establishing a joint venture with the company. This contract covers the Poti oil terminal and Gulf petrol stations. Petrocas Energy Limited is one of the largest oil companies operating in Georgia, importing fuel from Europe and supplying it to petrol stations in the country. The company owns oil terminals in Poti and a network of petrol stations. Of note is that information about the contract concluded between Rosneft and Petrocas is not registered in the National Agency of Public Registry. Presumably, the contract was concluded between the companies registered in offshores.
Of further mention is that the head of Rosneft, Igor Sechin, is believed to be one of Vladimir Putin’s allies whilst as a result of the Russian annexation of Crimea, the USA has imposed sanctions personally against him.
Rosneft’s purchase of 49% of the Petrocas Energy Group’s shares spurred great controversy in Georgia, both in the opposition as well as in civil society. The then Minister of Economy, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, stated that he did not welcome the contract signed with the Russian state company and a trilateral commission would be established under his ministry’s leadership with the involvement of the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to study the legal aspects of the deal. FactCheck tried to determine what results were produced after two-and-a-half years following the establishment of this commission by checking with the aforementioned ministries. No information could be found at the Ministry of Economy or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs whilst the issue could not even be confirmed with the Ministry of Justice.
In regard to Rosneft’s purchase of the Poti terminal’s control package, FactCheck contacted the Petrocas Energy Group to verify the information. The company believes that at this moment it is not expedient to make the information public as concerns this issue.
Rosneft has been violating the Law of Georgia on Occupied Territories as well as Georgia’s Criminal Code and the Law of Georgia on Maritime Space since 2009. Since 2014, the company has been carrying out activities on Georgian-controlled territory and purchased 49% of company shares therein. A commission, established by the Ministries of Economy, Justice and Foreign Affairs, was supposed to study the legal aspects of the selling of the aforementioned shares. No information can be found within these ministries, however, in regard to the establishment or the activities of such a commission.
Rosneft is going to violate the Law of Georgia on Occupied Territories once again in 2017 by opening several petrol stations on the territory of the occupied Tskhinvali region.
In regard to that part of Roman Gotsiridze’s statement where he talks about Rosneft’s purchase of the control package based on a confidential source, we can neither prove nor reject it. The Petrocas Energy Group says that public statement about this topic is not expedient at this moment.
FactCheck concludes that Roman Gotsiridze’s statement is TRUE.