Ukraine's Naftogaz CEO says new professional board needed

A man walks past the headquarters of the Ukrainian state energy company Naftogaz in central Kiev, Ukraine December 2, 2019. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

KYIV, Sept 10 (Reuters) - The head of Ukrainian state energy firm Naftogaz rejected on Friday accusations by the company's supervisory board that he was not cooperating with the board and said the company needed to elect qualified independent directors through an open competition.

Three members of the independent supervisory board at Naftogaz resigned this week, citing a rumbling dispute with the current leadership.

On Wednesday, supervisory board chief Clare Spottiswoode accused CEO Yuriy Vitrenko of not cooperating with the supervisory board, not answering its questions or sharing relevant documents.

The board had previously resigned in May in protest at the abrupt sacking of Naftogaz's then-chief executive Andriy Kobolyev and rapid instalment of Vitrenko as his successor, but it later agreed to stay on. read more

In comments posted on Facebook on Friday, Vitrenko said the effective work of Naftogaz depended on the effectiveness of corporate governance, but the current independent directors were not elected in an open competition and were not professionals.

"There are no independent (board) members with specialized (oil and gas) education and production experience, no one with legal education and experience," Vitrenko said.

"But if we sincerely support the supervisory board as an institution and not as a person ... then let us support a real competition for all independent members of the supervisory board as soon as possible," he added.

U.S. Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland, speaking at the online Yalta European Strategy summit on Friday, called the situation at Naftogaz an "ongoing leadership crisis" and urged Ukraine to "come together on refreshing the board, refreshing the CEO and do it in a manner that meets OECD governance standards".

Ukraine's Prime Minister Denys Shmygal said on Wednesday that the government would announce a competition to elect three new independent directors to the supervisory board and the process should be completed this autumn.

Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; editing by David Evans and Susan Fenton

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