Gazprom rebuffs Eni CEO appeal over Greenpeace activist

MILAN Thu Oct 17, 2013 12:48pm EDT

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MILAN Oct 17 (Reuters) - Russian energy company Gazprom on Thursday rebuffed an appeal by the head of Italian oil firm Eni to intervene in the case of an Italian activist who was arrested by Russian authorities on piracy charges.

A group of environmentalists, including Italian Cristian D'Alessandro, were arrested on charges of piracy over a Greenpeace protest at an Arctic drilling platform last month.

Eni Chief Executive Paolo Scaroni wrote a letter to Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller on Wednesday asking him to use his standing to appeal for clemency for D'Alessandro. Eni is Gazprom's biggest gas client.

"Mr Scaroni is knocking on the wrong door. Gazprom is a private company and as such has no means and no right to influence Russia's legal system," Gazprom spokesman Sergey Kupriyanov said.

The piracy charges, punishable by up to 15 years' jail, appear aimed at sending a message that Moscow will not tolerate attempts to disrupt its development of the resource-rich Arctic.

In his letter Scaroni acknowledged Gazprom had no role in the investigation.

"However - given your great standing - an appeal for clemency on your part may benefit those imprisoned and would support the energy industry in establishing a transparent and constructive dialogue with all stakeholders," he said.

State-controlled Eni has a strategic alliance with Gazprom which supplies Italian consumers with about 30 percent of their natural gas needs.

"It's a very unusual move and probably a lot of political pressure was brought to bear. Eni has a lot of interest with Gazprom and must tread warily," a Milan oil analyst said, asking not to be named.

On Wednesday three Italian members of parliament from centre-left parties thanked Scaroni for his gesture.

Greenpeace has said the protest at the rig owned by state-controlled Gazprom was peaceful and calls the piracy charges absurd and unfounded.

Also on Thursday eleven Nobel Peace Prize laureates urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to drop the piracy charges against the 30 people detained. (Reporting by Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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