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13

88 Of BP’s Staff Withdrawn From TNK-BP

BP has decided to withdraw 88 foreign employees assigned to its troubled joint venture TNK-BP...

BP has decided to withdraw 88 foreign employees assigned to its troubled joint venture TNK-BP, the company said Wednesday, in recognition that the Russian-British firm's escalating shareholder dispute shows no signs of nearing a resolution.

The employees — more than half of 148 BP employees who have been barred from working at TNK-BP since early May following a lawsuit brought by a murky minority shareholder — have already begun leaving Moscow for other BP projects, BP said.

In a separate development involving foreigners directly employed by TNK-BP, the Federal Migration Service said Wednesday that it would grant work permits to 49 employees — a move that could allow TNK-BP's American CEO Robert Dudley and a number of senior management officials to remain in the country.

The visa and work permit troubles have become the most concrete sign of the messy shareholder struggle, and the involvement of government agencies has cast a shadow over assertions by officials inside the Kremlin that the state is playing no role in the dispute.

Federal Migration Service spokesman Konstantin Poltoranin said the agency would issue work permits to six senior TNK-BP employees by Thursday, including chief financial officer James Owen and a host of vice presidents.

Dudley, chief operating officer Tim Summers and 41 other employees are due to get their permits within 10 days, Poltoranin said. "This way, the people can stay in the country," an agency spokeswoman added.