Putin Awards Russian Citizenship to Novatek’s American Executive

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has handed Russian citizenship to the veteran finance chief of gas producer Novatek, Mark Gyetvay, Interfax reports

The move could potentially help the American national bypass some sanctions restrictions, Russian media said. U.S. nationals and companies are banned from helping organize long-term funding for some major Russian firms, including Novatek, under current Washington  sanctions on Russia. 

U.S.-born Gyetvay was awarded Russian citizenship in a presidential decree published on the Kremlin’s website on Monday. Putin has previously granted citizenship to some other Western nationals working in top positions at Russian companies.

The sanctions were imposed following Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea and support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

When the U.S. and the EU imposed sanctions on Russia, executives with foreign passports at companies affected including Novatek — the country’s largest non-state natural gas producer — and state bank VTB handed over responsibility for organizing new debt or equity issuance to colleagues without EU or U.S. passports.

Gyetvay, who has been Novatek’s chief finance officer since 2003, acknowledged back in 2014 that he could no longer help his company raise new long-term financing. He declined to comment on the decree.