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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Prosecutors Take Aim at Oil Firms

Prosecutors promised Thursday to crack down on oil companies that break environmental rules following a minister's call for a criminal investigation into the Shell-led Sakhalin-2 project.

"The Prosecutor General's Office has taken the decision to introduce additional measures and strengthen legal supervision of compliance with environmental rules," the office said in a statement.

"Prosecutors have discovered a wide range of violations" in the oil and gas sector, the office said, but stopped short of singling out any project.

The prosecutors' warning to oil firms came on the day after Natural Resources Minister Yury Trutnev added to months of pressure on Shell's $22 billion Sakhalin-2 venture by ordering a prolonged environmental probe and threatening prosecution.

At a meeting with environmental inspectors and project operator Sakhalin Energy on Sakhalin Island in the Pacific, Trutnev said he wanted criminal prosecutors to investigate the environmental record of the oil and gas project, which he said had broken five articles of the criminal code.

Prosecutors said the breaches they had discovered at energy projects included missing project documents, incorrect paperwork for land allocation, soil contamination and over-production.

The prosecutors' statement blamed several governmental agencies responsible for environmental supervision for failing to act on reported violations and withdraw licenses. An attempt to revoke Sakhalin-2's environmental permit, which would have threatened to delay or derail the entire project, foundered after one government agency refused to sanction the withdrawal of the document.