Ukraine wants to regain control of Odessa refinery - minister

KIEV, March 31 Mon Mar 31, 2014 11:34am EDT

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KIEV, March 31 (Reuters) - The Kiev government wants control of the Odessa oil refinery to return to Ukrainian hands, interior minister Arsen Avakov said on Monday.

Russian newspaper Kommersant said earlier this month that the refinery's previous owner, Vetek, transferred the plant to Russia's VTB bank after failing to repay the loan which it had received to buy it from Lukoil last year.

Avakov said the refinery was now controlled by a Russian bank, which he did not name.

Vetek is owned by tycoon Serhiy Kurchenko who amassed a large fortune under the presidency of Viktor Yanukovich, who was removed from power last month.

Ukraine's prosecutor general issued a warrant for Kurchenko arrest earlier this month, on suspicion of stealing state property.

Kurchenko also left Ukraine last month and Avakov said that police had seized thousands of tonnes of refined oil products belong to his companies.

Ukrainian regional officials reported this month that Russia's largest oil company, Rosneft, could buy the refinery.

"We have uncovered a plan to transfer the Odessa refinery from Kurchenko's company to a Russian bank," Avakov said on his Facebook page.

He added the government would launch a "bid to return the ownership of the plant to Ukraine."

VTB, VETEK and the Odessa refinery were not immediately available for comment.

The refinery, designed to process 3.6 million tonnes of crude oil per year (70,000 barrels per day), suspended oil processing from late February. It also said it planned maintenance in March. (Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, editing by Tom Bergin)

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