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28 Apr 2023

Global Witness,

Exposing connections between Wintershall’s Siberian gas fields and Russia’s military supply chain

28 April 2023

...In November 2022 and January 2023, German media alleged that Wintershall’s gas condensate may have produced fuel used in Russian jet bombings that killed dozens of civilians in Ukraine. Wintershall, which is majority-owned by German major BASF, denied the allegations. It accused the press of failing to provide “concrete” evidence of the connection between its products and the Russian military. 

Now, a joint Global Witness and RFE investigation, using rail freight data sourced by the Anti-Corruption Data Collective, reveals the supply chains that connect Wintershall’s Siberian gas fields to Russia’s military. We show how gas condensate from Wintershall’s fields in Western Siberia feeds a refinery in Salavat which sends diesel to Russian military suppliers. It is not possible to determine whether any given barrel of diesel from Salavat contains Wintershall’s joint-venture gas condensate. But recipients of that diesel include suppliers of a military unit in the Federal Guard Service (FSO), which is responsible for Vladimir Putin’s personal protection. 

In 2014, after Russia invaded Crimea, while Wintershall was expanding its presence in Siberia, its chief executive said: “we’re getting closer to Gazprom...We know that we are good together.” Responding to this investigation, Wintershall told Global Witness that it was not involved in any hydrocarbon transport and marketing in Russia, and claimed there was "no proof that condensate from the Achimov formation has been used to produce fuels for the Russian military for the war of aggression". 

Global Witness does not allege direct links between Wintershall’s joint-venture fields and Russia’s military supply chain. But clearly, the connections we have identified are worthy of further investigation. And those deep ties Wintershall cultivated in the Russian fossil fuel industry mean Wintershall cannot guarantee its supply chains are not fueling the Kremlin’s war machine...

...Global Witness and RFE analysis of Russian government procurement records shows that the Salavat refinery in 2022 sent diesel directly to companies with a history of military contracts.

One firm that received multiple deliveries of diesel from Salavat between April and October 2022, Kedr, has signed several army contracts since 2021. It agreed deals to supply gasoline and diesel to military units 38953-K and 69793 in the last two years.

Military unit 69793 is part of Russia’s FSO, which provides personal protection for Vladimir Putin and oversees communications for government agencies. The FSO says these troops operate from the seaside town of Sochi.

The firm that supplied the unit, Kedr, is based in Crimea. Russian media outlets say it operates a petrol station network there under the brand name ATAN. Kedr is well-connected in Russian politics. A state council representative in Crimea from Vladimir-Putin’s ruling United Russia called Igor Tkachenko describes himself as an employee of both Kedr and ATAN. Tkachenko has posted multiple times in support of the war in Ukraine on his VK account, the Russian equivalent of Facebook.

These connections might explain why in March 2023, Kedr signed a contract to supply gasoline to the Crimean Republican Headquarters of the People’s Guards. The Guards are an ex-paramilitary group that played a role in the annexation of Crimea, before forming a public organisation that now provides support to the Russian police...