Friday, March 28, 2008

Hit the Road, Jack (All 148 of You)

A lot has been going in Russia this past week, in particular at the oil company TNK-BP--a combined Russian/British Petroleum venture. To quote The Moscow Times, "First, plainclothes Interior Ministry officers searched TNK-BP's offices on March 19 during an investigation into suspected tax evasion by a company that the 50-50 venture acquired years ago. The next day, the Federal Security Services announced that it had charged a U.S.-Russian employee and his brother with industrial espionage. Then, the Natural Resources Ministry said it would inspect TNK-BP's largest oil field for environmental violations. After that, the Interior Ministry said the firm had violated the immigration law by obtaining business visas instead of work visas for dozens of foreign employees."

Boy, to read it like that, you'd think that TNK-BP has really been up to no good... But everyone basically knows that this is a concocted campaign to weaken the company. Independent Russian and state-controlled Russian companies do not want a British company to be top competitor and they seem to be willing to win at any cost. Hmm... After all, think of what happened to Yukos... The government wanted control of that huge independently owned gas company, the head of it wouldn't sell, so charges were found to bring against him, he's imprisoned in Siberia, the Americans employed there fled the country, and the company was declared bankrupt--and then taken over for a song by unknown bidders--perhaps including Gazprom, the main Russian gas company?

Oh--and what about the fact that Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president-elect, is the Chairman of Gazprom?

What I do know is that two days ago, Chris witnessed a mass exodus of bewildered workers from his building--most likely men among the 148 TNK-BP expat workers who have to leave Russia until their visas are reissued. Talk about hitting the company where it hurts--all that lost productivity, plus the expense of relocating 148 FAMILIES on last-minute business-class flights and undetermined hotel stays in the USA??? I think of all the kids who are school-aged in those families. How difficult for them! The government sure is discouraging British and American expats from wanting to come do business here... The whole visa nonsense is a transparent ploy. The government this year decided to issue a very limited number of year-long work permits to TNK-BP employees (that's what we have). All the other employees are forced to leave the country every three months to get new visas! What a disruption!

Among those workers are friends of ours who in June 2006 invited us to their dacha for their daughter's birthday party. Here are my favorite photos from that day. (I knit Natalia's sweater that you see in the last picture).


Fioleta said...

I don’t even bother to follow Russian politics anymore, because usually it leaves me frustrated and angry.

The sweater is really beautiful – I like the colours you used – and such a sweet picture of your daughter.

Anonymous said...

wow - i am trying to remember who all we knew that worked for TNK-BP, it was a lot, especially from church. so, they all had to leave? what is the remaining expat response?

what was the russian guy actually charged with?


Annie said...

OK - I am being completely subdued by you. Gorgeous children, two FLUENT languages, you COOK, you DRIVE IN MOSCOW, you are obviously a top-notch photographer and now I find out you KNIT - you don't just knit some sort of AFGHAN or something - but an absolutely gorgeous sweater. I am sitting at your feet in awe.

Tina in CT said...

I have a puppy! Rachel's (Always Wanted Four) mother spotted a sign for a litter on her way home on Wed. and stopped in. She went back last night to email me pictures and today she brought the puppy (a female) to a friend from church that is their vet. The puppy checked out fine and I'm buying her. Cecelia is going to bring the puppy home as she doesn't want to bring her back to the litter and her puppy parents. Now that is a true friend to bring home an 8 week unhousebroken puppy!!!! My friend Diane and I will drive up there next Sat. for overnight to visit, meet Bob, bring home the puppy and also bring up a bunny from the two that Diane has left in her litter. I can't wait for next Sat. I have a lot to do this week - buy a crate, puppy toys, thoroughly wash floors and get ready to love a new dog.

Tina in CT said...


I am Tamara's mom so I get bragging rights. She is multi talented and she speaks MANY more languages than two and did at the age of 16. Her husband speaks three fluently (and a little Italian #4)so the girls get good "language" genes from them. She also sews, paints and scrapbooks but lately has not had the time to work on her family albums. I taught her how to knit the German way when she was pregnant with Katya. It was a simple cardigan. Within a month or so, she was onto intricate patterns and whipping up baby sweaters. To add to her list, she is a teacher extraordinaire. I have sat in her classes and know what she does with the students. Wish I'd had a teacher like her. She comes from a family that always is busy with their hands. There isn't anything her father can't build or fix (from using lumber to fixing a car - he restored an MG Midget for me one spring) and I knit, sew, embroider, needlepoint, garden, scrapbook, stencil, stamp and cook. I must say that the cooking is very limited now to when she was growing up but I used to always prepare good family suppers and entertain with small dinner parties. Those cooking days are behind me now though as that was a past stage in my life. Now I like to go out to dinner instead with friends. My maternal grandmother was from Germany and I was raised never to have idle hands. Tamara's father comes from a Swedish family and they followed the same guidelines. Strict European ways.

Guess I've bragged enough about my special daughter but that's one of the privileges of being a mother.

She probably has rolled her eyes a hundred times and said "Maaaaaaaa" but .....

Annie said...

Ha! Just as I typed that about "two languages" I began to think that Tamara probably speaks a few more which she never mentioned!

I come from similar stock (though perhaps not QUITE so rich in talents), but have spread myself too thin to make the most of myself. Time, time, time..... Annoying there isn't twice as much!

Rachael said...

Oh my, that's quite an impressive little tidbit thrown in there at the end. You knit the sweater?! It's gorgeous!!

And crazy about the company. What a hassle for those poor families.

Lori said...

Okay I have to confess I didn't read the post, but the pictures caught my eye because the so great. I love the first one the best.

Now I will go back and read.

garnet said...

So sorry to hear about what is happening to all these people. What stress for them!

And I love the sweater - the colors and the pattern. Some day I'm going to relearn to knit -- and learn well. I made a little baby sweater once but it never got worn.