Igor Sechin: the embodiment of power in Putin’s Russia | Energy industry


IGor Sechin knows better than anyone that the course of true love has never run smoothly. Amore Vero, a yacht linked to the head of state oil company Rosneft, was once named St Princess Olga, apparently in honor of Olga Rozhkova, his second wife.

After the couple separated, around 2017, according to independent Russian media, the boat was renamed.

Sechin, a close ally of Vladimir Putin who has been described as Russia’s second most important person, has never publicly claimed ownership of the Amore Vero. However, a Moscow-based Novaya Gazeta reporter traced a series of photos on Rozhkova’s Instagram that matched the 86-meter vessel and its movements around the world’s most glamorous ports. The boat can accommodate up to 14 passengers in eight cabins, as well as a private owner’s deck and a pool that turns into a helipad.

Sechin was sanctioned by the EU on Monday, but he was not blacklisted by the UK. Now the French government has confirmed that they believe they are the main shareholder in the offshore company that owns the Amore Vero. It was seized this week by customs during a night raid on a shipyard near Marseille.

The Amore Vero was seized this week by French customs. Photography: Albert Gea/Reuters

The $120 million ($90 million) Amore Vero and others like him have become symbols of a crackdown on the super-rich elite around Putin after the invasion of Ukraine sparked a wave of sanctions as the US, EU and UK try to isolate the Russian economy.

As managing director of Rosneft, Sechin occupies a central place in this economy. The oil it supplies to the world is one of Putin’s main geopolitical tools, and taxes on the company brought in 1.8 billion rubles for the Russian government in 2020 alone. That money would have been enough to finance about 40% of the annual military budget.

A Rosneft refinery in the Samara region of Russia.
A Rosneft refinery in the Samara region of Russia. Photo: Yegor Aleyev/TASS

Perhaps more than anyone, Sechin is representative of the mix of political and financial power that has characterized Russia since the chaotic collapse of the Soviet Union. He thrived under a regime that saw huge private fortunes built from state assets.

“He is one of Vladimir Putin’s most trusted and closest advisers, as well as his personal friend,” the EU sanctions notice says. “He was in daily contact with the Russian president.”

A Rosneft spokesperson said: “We cannot comment on the press release from the French Ministry of Economy and Finance due to the lack of a reason for the comments. Mr. Sechin is not aware of the presence of no company owning this object.

Prior to the invasion, a spokesperson said the company was “a business organization” with no “political agenda”. A yacht management company associated with the Amore Vero on Thursday denied that Sechin owned it. “I can absolutely say that Igor Sechin is not the owner,” a spokesperson for Imperial Yachts, which manages the vessel, told CNN.

Sechin, 61, has revealed relatively little about his youth, but he studied French and Portuguese at Leningrad University in present-day Saint Petersburg. He then served in the army in Angola and Mozambique as a translator, according to Russian media. However, he is widely seen as a key member of Russia’s “siloviki”, the former members of Russia’s security services who hold significant power in the country.

He followed in Putin’s footsteps to the upper echelons of Russia. In the 1990s he worked in Putin’s office when the latter was mayor of St. Petersburg, and in 1999 became deputy head of Putin’s administration.

Igor Sechin, right, and Vladimir Putin visit the Konevsky Monastery on Konevets Island in Lake Ladoga.
Igor Sechin, right, and Vladimir Putin visit the Konevsky Monastery on Konevets Island in Lake Ladoga. Photograph: Alexei Nikolsky/TASS

Sechin was first appointed to Rosneft’s board in 2004, shortly before it absorbed assets previously controlled by billionaire owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky – now in exile after serving 10 years in prison. prison following the dismantling of his company, Yukos.

While Sechin served a four-year term as deputy prime minister from 2008, it was arguably his appointment to head Rosneft in 2012 that marked his key position in Putin’s regime. Under his watch, the company struck deals with Italy’s Eni, Norway’s Statoil (now Equinor), China’s CNPC and America’s ExxonMobil – then headed by Rex Tillerson, later hired as US Secretary of State by Donald Trump.

The EU claimed that Sechin had been “rewarded” by Putin with “great wealth” for surpassing even his Rosneft salary, reported at $11.8 million in 2015. (Sechin’s salary was not disclosed in the last annual report.)

Rosneft returns the favor. The EU said the oil company funded the vineyards of a palace complex used personally by Putin near the Black Sea resort of Gelendzhik.


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