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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russneft Says Gazprom Warned it Over Yukos

Embattled oil firm Russneft responded to reports of an imminent sellout by its owner, Mikhail Gutseriyev, by saying it had dropped its talks over acquiring a foreign Yukos asset after receiving requests from a Gazprom official.

Russneft also said in a statement late Tuesday that it had never bought any assets directly from Yukos and indicated that it had never intentionally done anything to roil the authorities.

Russneft said it had held negotiations with the Slovak government to acquire a stake in pipeline operator Transpetrol after it received written permission from the Economic Development and Trade Ministry.

It dropped the talks after requests to do so from then-Gazprom Neft president Alexander Ryazanov, the statement said.

Gazprom Neft spokeswoman Natalya Vyalkina on Wednesday declined to comment on Russneft's statement.

Netherlands-based Yukos Finance, which holds a 49 percent stake in Transpetrol, is due to be auctioned off in Moscow on Aug. 15 by Yukos' court-appointed bankruptcy receiver.

Gutseriyev's firm, which expanded rapidly from scratch in 2003 to become one of the country's top 10 oil producers, is widely viewed as drawing the Kremlin's ire either for purchasing Yukos assets or for not agreeing to fold itself into a state-run energy firm.

Russneft's bought Tomskneftegasgeologia from State Duma Deputy Maxim Korobov, the company's main shareholder, and not from Yukos, Russneft's statement said.

It also said a small oil company in southern Russia, Geoilbent, was never part of Russneft and that it had never held talks to acquire it.

Media reports in 2005 said Russneft had bought Yukos' 34 percent in the firm, which is now owned by LUKoil.

Russneft bought a 50 percent stake in Zapadno-Malobalykskoye, a Siberian joint venture with Hungarian oil firm MOL, from Western shareholders, the statement said. MOL gave the Russian oil firm written permission to buy the stake, Russneft said.

"A question about a previous owner of the enterprise has never been part of the issues Russneft is interested in," Russneft's statement said.

The Federal Tax Service has targeted Russneft with a total of eight lawsuits against 11 companies that are or have been shareholders in Russneft, including ones owned by Gutseriyev.