MOSCOW Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Tuesday to protect the interests of strategic companies operating abroad, requiring them to obtain government permission to disclose information to foreign regulators, change contracts and sell property abroad.
The decree follows a warning by state-controlled gas export monopoly Gazprom to the European Commission that a European Union investigation of Gazprom's business in Europe touched the interests of a strategic Russian company.
"The decree establishes the obligation of a federal executive body to refuse permission to conduct the aforementioned activities if they are capable of damaging the economic interests of the Russian Federation," said the text of the decree, distributed by the Kremlin.
The decree covers foreign subsidiaries of Russian companies defined by the government as strategic.
Putin on Sunday ruled out a trade war over the European Commission's anti-trust investigation, which focused on Gazprom's policy of linking contract gas prices to oil prices, suspicions that Gazprom was hindering the free flow of gas in Europe and preventing supply diversification.
The EU announcement marks the formal launch of an investigation that began with raids of Gazprom subsidiaries in Europe a year ago.
Since then, Gazprom has made substantial price concessions in its oil-linked contracts to most of its major European customers.
(Reporting by Melissa Akin; Editing by Steve Gutterman)