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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Trutnev Promises Action

The new natural resources minister pledged on Wednesday to bring more transparency to his ministry but stopped short of promising to resume the issuance of oil exploration licenses halted by his predecessor.

Former Perm Governor Yury Trutnev, appointed to the Cabinet on Tuesday, criticized predecessor Vitaly Artyukhov for failing to establish clear and transparent relations with the private sector.

"Subsoil users were waiting for months for responses from the ministry and it was not clear on the basis of which criteria decisions were taken," he said.

Artyukhov was severely criticized by foreign investors and the oil sector for issuing no significant licenses to develop natural resources during his three years at the head of the ministry, which is responsible for licensing the long-term exploitation by private investors of all resources from oil and metals to timber and water.

Oil firms say the halt damaged the development of new fields and threatened to undermine Russia's impressive growth in oil output, which has risen 50 percent to around 9 million barrels per day over the last five years.

Artyukhov was also criticized for aggressive attempts to withdraw oil licenses from major firms, including embattled oil major Yukos, citing noncompliance with license terms.

Western investors, such as the world's biggest oil firm, ExxonMobil, have said they would consider making more significant investments in Russia if the ministry backs long-awaited reforms of its mineral resources law.

Trutnev said the ministry would focus on equal treatment of all investors and promised detailed comments in a month.

"I'm not saying that I will enter my office on Monday and start issuing licenses right away. What is important is that we must develop clear and transparent business principles and simply allow people to work," Trutnev said.

Perm is known as one of the key producing regions of oil major LUKoil.