FILE PHOTO: Rosneft Chief Executive Igor Sechin attends the talks of Russian President Vladimir Putin with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia June 22, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin/File Photo
WASHINGTON/MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – The head of Russian oil company Rosneft (ROSN.MM), Igor Sechin, flew to Caracas this week to meet Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and complain over delayed oil shipments designed to repay loans, two sources briefed on the conversation said on Saturday.
The visit, which was not publicly disclosed, is one of the clearest signs of strain between crisis-stricken Venezuela and its key financier Russia.
Over the last few years, Moscow has become Venezuela’s lender of last resort, with the Russian government and Rosneft handing Venezuela at least $17 billion in loans and credit lines since 2006, according to Reuters calculations.
State oil company PDVSA is repaying almost all of those debts with oil, but a meltdown in its oil industry has left it struggling to fulfill obligations.
Sechin and a large delegation of executives met with officials at PDVSA in a Caracas hotel this week. Sechin also met with Venezuela’s leftist leader Maduro, and chided him overoil-for-loans shipments that are behind schedule.
“He brought information showing that they were meeting obligations with China but not with them,” said one source with knowledge of the talks.
“They’re running around in PDVSA because of this,” added the source, asking to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak to media.
The country’s oil production has fallen to just 1.17 million barrels-per-day, a 37 percent drop in the last year, according to reports from secondary sources to OPEC, leaving itstruggling to ship Russian entities the roughly 380,000 bpd it has agreed to send, according to PDVSA documents seen by Reuters.
Additional reporting by Corina Pons, Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Susan Thomas