Russian ministry fears leakage of top oil secrets

Oct 25, 2004 02:00 AM

A private security firm seized control of a building that houses a research centre where the Russian Natural Resources Ministry stores top-secret information about the nation's oil and gas reserves.
An obscure company called Elektroproyekt hired the security firm to assert ownership of the building, which houses the ministry's GEON research centre, and evict its staff. The building is on a prime piece of real estate near Christ the Saviour Cathedral.

Elektroproyekt's general director Alexander Kononykhin told at the scene that his company was trying to enforce its ownership rights to the property after winning a series of lawsuits against GEON. A spokesman for the Natural Resources Ministry, Rinat Gizatulin, was the first to raise alarm over the raid, saying "unknown individuals" had stormed the building and seized documents.
GEON has been conducting secret research into the nation's reserves of oil, gas and rare metals, as well as into the results of nuclear testing on seismic activity,since its creation in Soviet times. GEON representatives would not say what documents Elektroproyekt gained access to.

Kononykhin claimed, meanwhile, that the Federal Security Service arrived at the scene and sealed off the GEON office where the top-secret material was held. Despite the centre’s strategic importance, the Moscow city government handed the rights to the building to another obscure firm, called The Club of Young Artists in 2000, a GEON employee was saying.
The GEON employee said the rights were eventually handed over to Elektroproyekt, which is affiliated with The Club of Young Artists. He said GEON was the property of the federal government and that municipal authorities had no right to transfer the rights to its building.

GEON general director Igor Kadurin said that even though Elektroproyekt had won a recent court case against GEON over rights to the building, the ruling did not give the company the right to evict his organization. An official at the Natural Resources Ministry was quoted as saying that the seizure of the building could be related to a rift between Mayor Yury Luzhkov and Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref.
It was said GEON had been in conflict with the mayor's office before, releasing a report earlier this year that said the major Moscow construction project Moskva-City and the elite Alye Parusa housing complex are being built in seismically dangerous zones.

Source: The Moscow Times
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