Paris-based TotalEnergies SE agreed to sell its 49% interest in a Siberian natural gas field to Russian partner PAO Novatek. The sale followed reports that the gas project produced fuel for Russian military aircraft used to advance the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.


The French energy giant said Friday it expects the sale of its stake in the joint venture operating the Termokarstovoye gas field to close in September. TotalEnergies still owns 19.4% of Novatek along with other significant holdings in Russia. Novatek is not state-owned.

TotalEnergies had as recently as last week defended the Termokarstovoye project as part of its commitment to help ensure energy security for Europe at a time when supplies of both oil and gas on the continent are precarious.  

Unlike most of its peers, including Shell plc and ExxonMobil, TotalEnergies has not moved with haste to unload holdings in Russia in protest of the war. The French company still has minority stakes in nonstate-owned Russian companies Yamal LNG (20%) and Arctic LNG 2 (10%).

The Termokarstovoye sale followed a report by French newspaper Le Monde that the Siberian field produced and supplied gas condensate that Russia used to make jet fuel for its military. Le Monde cited information from Global Witness, a nongovernmental organization that investigates corruption.

Noting the report, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba demanded TotalEnergies withdraw from Russia. “Against this background, it is a disgrace to France when French companies assist the murder of Ukrainians and the ruining of our cities. TotalEnergies, pull out of Russia,” Kuleba wrote on Twitter.

TotalEnergies last Wednesday said it was unaware of such activity. “Novatek refines all of its liquid feedstock (including gas condensate) in a refinery it owns in Russia to make fuel that it sells on the Russian market. TotalEnergies has neither information on, nor control over, the sales made independently by Novatek on the Russian market,” the company stated.

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On Friday, however, Total Energies said it had reached a deal in early August to sell its stake in the joint venture operating Termokarstovoye. It said the sale was part of a broader effort to gradually unwind or suspend operations in Russia that are not essential to Europe’s energy security. The company said it won Russian regulatory approval of the sale last Thursday, allowing it to announce the deal the following day.

TotalEnergies stands apart from most of its peers. Many of them last spring announced plans to suspend activity and urgently implement plans to exit Russia. This followed the Kremlin’s February invasion of Ukraine. Multiple rounds of Western sanctions have since followed, galvanizing oil and gas companies to distance themselves from Russia.

The United States banned imports of Russian oil and gas, and the European Union followed with a planned embargo on Russian crude. European countries also are calling for U.S. exports of LNG to help wean themselves off Russian natural gas.