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British Petroleum states that Russian oil reserves equal to 60 billion barrels.

Such relatively modest amount leads us to believe that a new Russian law consummated in February 2004 was no coincidence. According to the new law, any information concerning oil reserves in the country is in fact State secret. Actual oil and gas reserves in Russia turned out to be not quite as big as the Russian elite had envisioned them. Taking into account today's export tempo of oil products, Russia could soon begin importing oil.

Perhaps, that is why Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree on November 11, 2003 (Federal Law ¦-153) thus bringing certain changes to article 5 of the Federal Law regarding ?State secret¦. In particular, the new law regards any information revealing the exact amount of supply, reserves, production, and the actual use of strategic types of minerals of the Russian Federation as State secret.

A list of minerals, which remains secret, has been issued by a special decree of the Russian government on April 2 2002 (¦210). According to the list, ?any information concerning oil reserves and reserves of solute gas in oil¦ is classified.

At the same time, however, things could have been much simpler. Since no one ever possesses exact information on anything in our country, especially when it concerns such complex subjects as geology, it was decided to simply make all the data classified to avoid the hassle of finding out the exact numbers. So the government decided to use an alternative: make all the data classified.

The Federal law ¦153 has been consummated after 3 months since the day it was officially introduced in 2004. Therefore, it follows that any public official, such as ex or present-day governing body of MinPromEnergo (the Ministry of Industry and Energy), prime-minister and even the president himself, who has made the information concerning oil resources public more than once, should be hold liable for revealing classified info. We can only hope that the FSB (Federal Security Bureau) will actually inform the public of their actions regarding these government officials.

Interestingly, information concerning Russian oil reserves is being continuously published by British Petroleum in its ?BP Statistical Review¦ magazine. According to the agency Media-Press with reference to BP, which was published April 19, 2004, Russia possesses 60 billion barrels of oil, its daily oil production for July 2003 constituted 7 million 698 thousand barrels, consumption?2 million 469 thousand barrels.

To compare, according to the SHANA agency, confirmed oil reserves in Iran on its major production plant constitute 130 billion barrels, production?3 million 729 thousand barrels per day, consumption?1 million 350 thousand barrels per day.

Such comparison appears to be rather distressing for the ?Kremlin dreamers.¦ So they really do have something to hide.

It is characteristic that the new ?State secret¦ amendment mentions not only reserves but also extraction scale, production, hydrocarbon transportation; whereas the list mentions only minerals. Had the list been extended, not only the entire government of the Russian Federation along with its analysts could have ended up behind bars but also any journalist who ever attempted to write on the ?hydrocarbon¦ subject.

Shareholders of NK ?SibNeft¦ for instance suggest adding a new clause in the NK guidebook of rules and regulations prohibiting the firm-s co-owner to reveal any information containing classified materials. First of all, such condition will concern foreign management and the company's owners.

It would also be noteworthy to remind that according to this Federal ?State secret¦ law, information concerning emergency situations, catastrophes, ecology, threats to public security and facts revealing unlawful activity of government officials is NOT considered classified.

Alexander Sutyagin, project ?Monitoring BTS/Bellona CPB¦

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