Russian gas trader says US sanctions 'badge of honor'

Russian gas trader says US sanctions 'badge of honor'
Sat Apr 12, 2014 15:22:27

A billionaire Russian gas trader, hit with US sanctions, has said being singled out by Washington is a badge of honor, threatening that his company will turn to Asian markets.

Gennady Timchenko, who sold his stake in oil trading firm Gunvor hours after the sanctions were announced, acknowledged that the sanctions were slightly inconveniencing his business interests because some European banks were reluctant to deal with him.

"The fact that I was included in the list (of people subject to US sanctions) was a little surprising maybe, but it was quite an honor for me," he said in an interview with the state-run Rossiya television station to be broadcast later on Saturday.

"Some (problems) arise because some banks, realizing who they are dealing with, are starting to create certain difficulties... They are frightened," he said, according to a pre-transmission transcript provided to news organizations.

"In general it is not all that serious because we anticipated this might happen and so in a certain sense took care in advance of our assets" by shifting them into Russian bank accounts, Timchenko said.

His remarks were in line with the defiant mood Russian officials and business figures have projected - at least in public - in response to the US and European Union sanctions.

He was the most high-profile business figure included on the US sanctions list drawn up in response to rejoining of Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula to Russia.

Gunvor started out selling small shipments of crude through the Estonian port of Tallinn. It grew spectacularly, at one point becoming the biggest exporter of Russian oil through contracts with state majors such as Rosneft.

Timchenko, who is also co-owner of Russia's No. 2 gas producer Novatek, signaled he would be pursuing more business opportunities in Asia - part of a shift the Kremlin is encouraging away from links with the West.

Russian officials say that if Europe does not treat them with the respect they are due, the country will instead sell its oil and gas to the resource-hungry Chinese market instead, and that European countries will lose out as a result.


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