Thousands of Russian oil and gas workers on duty in remote locations are facing the risk of being conscripted into the Russian Army and sent to the war in Ukraine, according to industry observers in Moscow.
Employees of Russia’s fourth largest oil producer, Surgutneftegaz, have been called up for annual military training exercises that are to be held in the company’s home city of Surgut, West Siberia, between 26 September and 10 October, according to a letter posted on Russian social network site VK.
The letter, signed by Surgutneftegaz’ deputy human resources head Mikhail Kirilenko on 21 September, is addressed to the heads of the company’s subsidiaries and units. The document instructs them to subpoena reservists who are employed by the producer, to attend the exercises.
The Surgutneftegaz letter is understood to have been sent just hours before Russian President Vladimir Putin announced in a televised address to the nation that he had signed a decree calling for the partial mobilisation of reservists into the Russian Armed Forces.
Many of the country’s oil and gas workers are expected be called up following the decree, as they will have served in the Armed Forces before and still fall within the age groups identified by authorities as the prime target for conscription, according to Mikhail Krutikhin, a partner with Moscow-based energy consultancy RusEnergy.
Krutikhin noted that shift-workers in West Siberia and other remote regions typically live in company dormitories at production sites and depend upon company transportation to return to their home regions.
A similar letter from military authorities, a copy of which was also posted in a VK social group, has been sent to companies in another Russian oil province, Bashkiria, with their managers asked to ensure the arrival of employed reservists to a military gathering point by the morning of 22 September.
Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that up to 300,000 reservists are wanted.
Following Putin’s statement, Russian social media buzzed with speculation that the decision amounts to acknowledgement of the difficulties the Kremlin has been facing in finding volunteers ready to sign up to the military to replace soldiers who died or were wounded in the conflict that has been raging in Ukraine since February.
Reports in Moscow also speculated that a call to participate in training exercises may be a means of gathering reservists to military facilities, where they will be served with new subpoenas to remain in service.
Earlier this week, the Russian parliament passed amendments to Russian laws, introducing long prison sentences to reservists who are subpoenaed in person but then refuse to enroll.
According to regional economic departments in the administrations of two major Russian hydrocarbon provinces, Khanty-Mansiysk and Yamal-Nenets, oil and gas producers employ an estimated 179,000 shift workers.
Surgutneftegaz informed Upstream it it is unable to provide any comment.
* The story has been updated to include a response from Surgutneftegaz.