Russian oil producer Rosneft may expand in the African countries of Angola and Mozambique, where its boss Igor Sechin served as a Soviet translator in the early 1980s. Rosneft said on Wednesday its delegation in Angola had discussed the possible participation of the Kremlin-controlled company in exploration and development projects there. The announcement came a day after Rosneft said it had also held talks over projects in Mozambique.
Sechin, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, worked in both countries as a translator, according to his former classmates and fellow Soviet translators. His Soviet past, as is often the case with Russian politicians and businessmen, is shrouded in secrecy, beyond a few details. Fluent in Portuguese and French, Sechin worked as a translator in Angola in the early 1980s and in Mozambique for a Soviet trade body called Tekhnoexport.
Russia and Angola have recently strengthened ties. Russia’s VTB Bank helped Angola raise $1 billion in 2012 in a private placement. Angola’s ruling MPLA party was backed by the Soviet Union during a 27-year civil war which it won against U.S.-backed rebel group UNITA in 2002. Long-serving President Jose Eduardo dos Santos studied in Moscow in the 1970s.
Rosneft declined to comment on why the company had increased its activity in the continent and particularly in Angola, Africa’s biggest crude producer after Nigeria, which is seeking to raise output to 2 million barrels per day (mbpd) in 2015 from around 1.7 mbpd currently.
On Wednesday, Rosneft said its delegation, headed by company vice-president Andrei Shishkin, flew to Angola earlier this week and met a number of officials, including oil minister Jose Maria Botelho de Vasconcelos and Francisco de Lemos Jose Maria, the head of state oil firm Sonangol.