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Russian bailiffs search BP's office in Moscow

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[August 31, 2011]  MOSCOW (AP) -- Russian bailiffs searched BP PlC's Moscow office on Wednesday because of a minority shareholder's lawsuit, the company said, calling the action an illegal raid.

BP's Russian spokesman Vladimir Buyanov told The Associated Press the company was cooperating with the bailiffs. He said no documents were seized yet and the situation in the office was "calm."

The search is connected with a lawsuit in a Siberian court. Andrei Prokhorov, an obscure minority shareholder of BP's Russian venture TNK-BP, is suing the British oil giant for allowing an Arctic exploration deal with the Russian state-owned energy firm Rosneft to fall through. Prokhorov is seeking some $3 billion in damages. He said his interests were harmed as TNK-BP could have benefited from becoming part of the deal.

In London, BP spokesman David Nicholas said the company does not think that "there is any legitimate basis for the raid today."

He said the work of the BP office was "illegally being interfered with."

The multibillion Arctic deal between BP and Rosneft collapsed earlier this year after Soviet-born shareholders of its Russian venture TNK-BP contested the deal. They said BP was breaking TNK-BP's shareholder agreement by entering into a deal without the venture's knowledge or consent.

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Rosneft on Tuesday teamed up with Exxon Mobil in a landmark deal to develop offshore oil fields in the Russian Arctic. Rosneft's spokesman said there was no way that BP could revive the Arctic deal with Rosneft now.

Dmitry Chepurenko, an attorney for TNK-BP's Prokhorov, said in an email that the bailiffs were enforcing Tuesday's ruling of the Tyumen Court of Appeal that ordered BP to present the documents related to its planned strategic partnership with Rosneft.

[Associated Press; By NATALIYA VASILYEVA]

Robert Barr contributed to this report from London.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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