Russia’s oil company Tatneft, one of the biggest in the country, operated in Crimea until very recently despite the risk of being blacklisted by the U.S., Reuters reported on Wednesday, citing Tatneft documents and a source close to the company.
After the U.S. slapped sanctions on Russia over the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, most big oil companies from Russia withdrew from Crimea, faced with the threat of being placed on a blacklist of sanctioned firms.
According to a Reuters investigation and two visits of reporters to a fuel station in Sevastopol in Crimea, the company that operated the station until September was controlled by subsidiaries of Tatneft.
A document seen by Reuters in early September also showed that a wholly owned unit of Tatneft was selling the fuel to the gas station. The Russian company told Reuters in mid-September that it “does not supply [its own or anyone else’s] fuel to Crimea or Sevastopol.”
However, after the first visit of a reporter to the fuel site, Tatneft was no longer listed as the ultimate owner of the gas station, according to tax and company records that Reuters has compiled and compared.
The fuel station in Sevastopol “officially does not belong to Tatneft, so as not to fall under sanctions, but de facto it’s entirely Tatneft,” a source in Tatneft told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
According to two Moscow-based lawyers specializing in sanctions law, Tatneft’s operations in Crimea would be grounds for the U.S. Treasury to put the Russian oil company on a list of firms that U.S. companies are prohibited from doing business with.
The Tatarstan region in Russia holds nearly 36 percent in Tatneft, and the administration of the region’s president told Reuters that the company did not own fuel stations in Crimea, and that Tatneft had pulled out of Crimea in 2013.