ExxonMobil joins business exodus from Russia after decades of close ties

An oil platform in icy waters
The Molikpaq offshore oil platform stands off Sakhalin island in far eastern Russia in 2003. Exxon has operated the project since 1995, but announced it is “developing steps to exit” the venture in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (Ursula Hyzy/AFP via Getty Images)

American oil and gas giant ExxonMobil is ending its decades-long involvement in Russia, exiting a major oil and gas project off Russia’s eastern coast and announcing it will not make new investments in the country.

The move comes as the global business community increasingly is moving to isolate Moscow over the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

Energy giants are playing a conspicuous role in the trend as they respond to the ongoing invasion, the resulting sanctions, and mounting political pressure to distance themselves from the Russian government. Over the weekend, BP announced it was ending a partnership with Russian state-controlled oil giant Rosneft that’s valued at some $25 billion. The Norwegian company Equinor followed suit, as did Shell.

Exxon has a long history of close ties to Russia — with the company’s interests sometimes controversially diverging from U.S. foreign policy priorities. But Exxon’s footprint in Russia had shrunk in recent years, thanks in large part to U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia after the invasion of Crimea in 2014.

But Exxon had continued to manage the Sakhalin-1 oil and gas project, a technologically tricky operation that made tens of billions of dollars for the Russian government. Now Exxon says it is “beginning the process to discontinue operations and developing steps to exit the Sakhalin-1 venture.” The future of the project beyond that is unclear.

Because it is the operator of the project, not just an investor, the company says the process “will need to be closely coordinated with the co-venturers in order to ensure it is executed safely.”

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