By Liz Hampton
(Reuters) – Oil services provider Schlumberger is weighing unspecified options for its thousands of Russian workers as the war in Ukraine escalates, chief executive Olivier Le Peuch told Reuters in an interview.
Among the Western companies that did not disappear after the invasion of Ukraine in February, Schlumberger is one of the biggest employers in Russia. It has some 10,000 people in the region and is under pressure to stay in the country as fighting has intensified and Russia’s losses have led to military mobilization.
“We clearly continue to condemn Russia’s invasion,” he said in an interview on Wednesday, adding that its leaders “continue to watch and monitor the escalation in the region.”
Le Peuch did not say what would drive the world’s largest oil services company out of the country. But he said: “We continue to evaluate the options in light of our employees, shareholders and other stakeholders.”
In a tweet, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba blasted the company’s presence in Russia as contributing to war crimes and genocide. “The only way to salvage (what) remains of his reputation is to WITHDRAW from Russia NOW,” he said.
Schlumberger employees told Reuters they risked losing their jobs as they sought to evade military call-up and receive notices at their workplaces if they stayed, moves they saw as Schlumberger supporting the war.
Last month, President Vladimir Putin issued an executive order to add 300,000 troops to the war effort amid heavy casualties in Ukraine. The decree prompted tens of thousands of Russians to flee the country.
Le Peuch said “Schlumberger management in the country is exploring all options to help employees,” without providing details. The company suspended new investments and the deployment of technologies, but stopped withdrawing as some rivals have done.
Some companies with operations in Russia, including Roche Holding and Novo Nordisk, have requested military reprieves for their employees.
Schlumberger said last week that its Russian executives were “working tirelessly with customers and the government to assess all exemption opportunities for their employees within the existing legal framework.”
(Reporting by Liz Hampton in Denver; Editing by Stephen Coates)