London: British oil giant BP is suing its Russian partners in TNK-BP, amid growing rifts in the joint venture.
A company spokesman confirmed to AFP that the action against Russian shareholders AAR over an alleged debt worth around $370 million would be heard at the High Court in London.
He declined to comment further but in Moscow, AAR’s chief executive Stan Polovets said in a statement: “We are very surprised that, instead of trying to resolve this matter through dialogue, BP has turned to the British courts with a claim that is grossly inflated.”
Polovets also charged that BP was unwilling to treat AAR, which consists of Alfa Group, Access Industries and Renova, as an equal partner and accused it of mismanagement.
BP is battling AAR over control of the venture -- Russia’s third-largest oil producer -- and relations between the two have hit serious problems in recent months.
Last week, Russian newspapers reported that foreign managers at BP could be forced to leave the country within days due to problems renewing their visas.
And in June, AAR said the election of a new board of nine directors -- four appointed by AAR and five by BP -- was “illegal”.
The dispute is being closely watched as an indicator of how foreign investors will fare in President Dmitry Medvedev’s Russia.
It is also playing out against a backdrop of cool relations between Britain and Russia over issues including the 2006 death by poisoning in London of ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko and Russia’s refusal to extradite the man wanted by British authorities over the case.