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Transneft boss - from KGB to oil diplomat

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Nikolai Tokarev is one-part oilman, two parts diplomat. As the head of Russia's state-owned Transneft TRNF_p.MM he spearheads the complicated negotiations behind new pipeline deals with foreign governments.

Nikolay Tokarev, Chief Executive Officer of Transneft, speaks to journalists at the Reuters office in Moscow September 14, 2010. REUTERS/Alexander Natruskin

Tokarev, who turns 60 this December, took over the top post at Transneft, the world’s largest oil transport company, in 2007, having spent seven years running Zarubezhneft, a state firm involved in oil exploration and production abroad.

He has since overseen Russia’s largest oil supply and transport deal with China and continues to conduct high-profile pipeline negotiations with Turkey, Bulgaria and other European countries as Russia moves to build alternative supply routes.

Since Soviet times, Transneft has built up and operated the country’s 31,000-mile oil pipeline network. In 2009 it exported on average 4.24 million barrels per day (bpd), excluding exports to Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

Tokarev’s rise to prominence in Russia’s state-dominated energy sector can be traced back to his early career, when he became a close ally of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin during his KGB days.

A biography of Tokarev, published in Russia’s opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta shortly after his appointment as Transneft president, said the two originally met on assignment in East Germany.

Between 1996 and 1999 Tokarev worked for the state Presidential Property Management Department where Putin also served as deputy chief in 1996 and 1997.

But only after being tapped to head Russia’s Zarubezhneft, did he become known in oil and gas industry circles.

For the past four years, Tokarev has been at the forefront of the country’s changing oil-transport policy, which above all involves transporting more oil toward oil-hungry nations like China.

In 2009, Tokarev signed Transneft's part of a $25 billion loan-for-oil deal with China, committing -- together with producer Rosneft ROSN.MM -- to supply China with 300,000 barrels per day of crude from new East Siberian fields.

Transneft recently finished building its part of “Chinese spur” extension onto its East Siberian Pipeline Ocean (ESPO) pipeline. The pipeline, which will extend to Daquing, China, is expected to be in service by the end of the year.

Editing by David Holmes