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Russian prosecutors said on Friday they had uncovered a number
Russian prosecutors said on Friday they had uncovered a number of minor labor code violations committed by the Russian-British oil company TNK-BP, which is also embroiled in a bitter shareholder dispute.

"The inspection has been completed, and revealed labor legislation violations," Yury Basov of a Moscow district prosecutor's office said.

The prosecutor earlier said the check had been carried out following an inquiry lodged by a trade union association into the legitimacy of key TNK-BP positions being held by foreign managers and the possible abuse of Russian employees' rights.

However, Basov said "no violations of employees' rights related to their nationality... have been found." He said the uncovered breaches were insignificant, the company has good staff benefits.

BP, which holds 50% in the joint venture, recalled 148 foreign employees in Russia over alleged visa problems in March. The move came amid mounting pressure on the company after a police raid of the joint venture's Moscow office and the arrest of an employee on industrial espionage charges.

A consortium of Russian billionaire shareholders, holding the other 50% stake in the joint venture, have also complained that BP has appointed too many foreigners in top-management positions.

They also demanded the dismissal of the BP-appointed CEO, Robert Dudley, who they accused of acting in favor of the British oil major affecting Russian partners' interests, and greater clout in setting the company's strategy.

The Russian investors said earlier this month they would go to an international arbitration court in Stockholm and Russian courts to challenge BP's refusal to meet their demands. BP executives said the Russian partners have used methods employed by corporate raiders in the early 1990s.

Analysts have suggested that the dispute could result in the oil company being bought up by a state-controlled energy giant as part of the Kremlin's campaign to strengthen its grip on the oil and gas sector.

Set up in 2003, TNK-BP is Russia's third largest producer. It accounts for a quarter of BP's overall output.


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