Oil Exec Suspected of Contaminating Druzhba Pipeline Seeks Political Asylum in Lithuania

Roman Ruzhechko, suspected of causing billions in losses by contaminating one of the largest Russian oil pipelines earlier this year, has been detained in Vilnius and has asked for political asylum, Reuters reported citing Lithuanian authorities.

According to Deutsche Welle, Russian prosecutors believe the 40-year-old oil executive was “one of the masterminds of a conspiracy which disrupted oil deliveries from Russia to the West, including Poland and Germany.”

According to Lithuanian laws, a foreign country, including Russia, has 40 days to request a suspect’s extradition after he or she sought asylum in Lithuania.

Lithuania acted on an Interpol warrant and a district court in Vilnius, according to reports, ordered a three-month detention at the request of Lithuanian prosecutors. The suspect’s lawyer, however, said Russia can’t prove its claim.

Some three months ago officials reportedly discovered that Ruzhechko’s small oil transport company Samartransneft-Terminal, allegedly used organic chloride to pollute millions of tons of crude oil in the Druzhba (Friendship) network owned and operated by the Russian oil pipeline monopoly Transneft.

Following the scandal, Russia has pledged to pay compensation to its Western clients, which could reach billions of U.S. dollars.

It will reportedly take months for Druzhba, which can ship up to one million barrels per day, to restore the pipeline, which goes from Russia and Belarus and splits into the southern leg that goes to Ukraine, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic and the northern spur routed to Poland and Germany.

While Ruzhechko is trying to evade Russian justice, prosecutors in the country have arrested two executives of his company and two other suspects and issued arrest warrants against Ruzhechko and the former company’s owner Roman Trushev, both suspected of “directing the conspiracy.”