Crude Connections

Mapping BP’s influence from the British Museum to Russia

January 2018

Photo 15-01-2018, 10 46 40

Russia is pivotal to BP’s success. It accounts for a third of the oil giant’s production and a quarter of its profits. In order to keep its business in Russia on track in the face of sanctions, spills and swirling controversy it has developed an elaborate strategy. But from cosy relationships with politicians to VIP exhibition launches, the full extent of BP’s toxic agenda can be hard to grasp.

Crude Connections is a new online resource that reveals how BP’s business strategy extends from the British Museum’s latest blockbuster exhibition, Scythians: Warriors of Ancient Siberia, through meetings with ministers in Westminster, all the way to Putin’s right-hand man.

  • View a detailed timeline of government meetings, emails and sponsored events, illustrated with extracts of material released under the Freedom of Information Act
  • Learn about BP’s major stake in Russian state oil company Rosneft, its dire environmental record and how its CEO is mired in controversy
  • Explore the Crude Connections map which links the key players and reveals how BP’s cultural sponsorship deals are helping smooth Anglo-Russian diplomacy
  • Find out how the Scythians exhibition connects the British Museum and BP to a Russian region on the frontlines of climate change and Indigenous struggles

Click here to view our ‘Crude Connections’ map which reveals the relationships between the politicians, meetings and cultural institutions featured in our research.

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Crude Connections – a summary

In each section, you can get the full story on:

Lobbying: meeting ministers and sidestepping sanctions

  • Despite its tough rhetoric on Russia, the UK government hosted events designed to work around sanctions and help British companies ‘break into the Russian oil and gas sector’
  • As new US sanctions on Russia loomed, British Embassy staff sought out BP’s views and met with the company’s lawyer in Russia. Sanctions which had, according to BP, been ‘full of unintended consequences’ were later revised to BP’s satisfaction.
  • BP seeks UK government support in a joint plan with Rosneft to get round sanctions that would prevent them drilling in shale – by reclassifying the shale deposit as ‘limestone’

BP and Rosneft: skills, scandal and Sechin

  • BP owns a 19.75% stake in Russian state oil company Rosneft, with its CEO sitting alongside Rosneft’s highly controversial CEO, Igor Sechin, on the Board of Directors
  • Rosneft has one of the worst safety records in the world, responsible for thousands of oil spills every year
  • Rosneft is currently embroiled in a high-profile corruption scandal that has seen a former minister jailed for eight years.

Sponsorship: branding culture from the UK to Russia

  • Its sponsorship of the British Museum’s Scythians exhibition gave BP the opportunity to meet privately with the Russian Ambassador before the official launch
  • Amidst BP’s meetings with ministers, the Mariinsky Ballet and Orchestra travelled to London on a BP-sponsored tour to perform at the BP-sponsored Royal Opera House
  • Back in 2015, the Science Museum’s BP-sponsored ‘Cosmonauts’ exhibition resulted in the museum’s director being awarded the Pushkin Medal by Vladimir Putin

Scythians: climate change and Indigenous rights in the Altai mountains

  • Many of the objects on display in the British Museum’s exhibition were perfectly preserved for millennia in the permafrost – but that is now melting at an alarming rate as a result of climate change
  • While archeologists strive to preserve unexcavated treasures, local Indigenous communities want sacred Scythian remains returned
  • Russian state gas company Gazprom recently sponsored the Altai National Museum in an attempt to smooth the way for a controversial new pipeline through the region to China