Norway's Statoil and Russia's Rosneft has signed a partnership to carry out oil exploration in the Arctic.
The agreement comes despite Moscow being subject to Western sanctions imposed for the continuing tensions with Ukraine. Norway was one of the countries involved with enforcing tough measures against Russia for its alleged backing of separatists in Ukraine but this has not prevented the exploration programme from going ahead.
Rosneft, a state-controlled company, announced that it had started its operations with Statoil which will work at the Pingvin License PL713 prospect in the Norwegian section of the Barents Sea. The company stated that the Pingvin-1 site will be drilled by the Transocean Spitsbergen rig to a water depth 422 metres as it aims to reach a total vertical depth of 1,516 metres.
The Kremlin-controlled firm said in a statement: "The start of this exploration operations marks an important milestone in developing the cooperation between Rosneft and Statoil. The companies plan to implement their experience of exploration and development of hydrocarbon fields in regions with harsh climate."
Both the European Union (EU) and US announced fresh sanctions on Russia following the alleged shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over rebel territory in Ukraine. The passenger jet was carrying 298 went it came down near Hrabove in the Donetsk Oblast.
Among the sanctions handed out by the EU and US was the restriction of Rosneft's access to international funding. The company's head Igor Sechin was also targeted as part of the restrictions. British oil company BP had warned the sanctions would affect its own operations as it owns around 20 per cent of Rosneft and added that it was not prepared to sever its ties with the Russian firm.
Rosneft recently asked the Russian government for a $42 billion (£25.2 billion) loan as it has been struggling to raise funds following the Western sanctions.
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