Russian President Vladimir Putin has given the signal, via video link, to launch the drilling of a well in an oil field in Russia's Arctic being developed by Rosneft and U.S. oil company ExxonMobil.
Putin said from Sochi, "Today, commercial success is driven by efficient international cooperation."
Putin added, "Businesses, including Russian and foreign companies, perfectly realize that and despite certain current political difficulties, pragmatism and common sense prevail, and we are pleased to hear that."
Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin and ExxonMobil Russia chief Glen Waller were at the site in Russia's far northern Kara Sea for the ceremony to start exploratory drilling from the West Alfa rig.
Putin also praised the partnership with ExxonMobil saying, "I am convinced that Rosneft's joint projects with ExxonMobil and other companies would benefit our national economies and help strengthen a global energy situation, develop breakthrough technologies, and create new jobs."
Waller said, "Our cooperation is a long-term one," and added, "We see big benefits here and are ready to work here with your agreement."
Sechin said exploratory drilling at the site would be completed in some two months.
He said preliminary geological studies concluded there are at least 30 oil and gas structures at the site.
Sechin added one of these structures, the Universitetskaya-1, is estimated to contain some 87 billion barrels of oil equivalent.
The Universitetskaya-1 well is Russia's northernmost well.
The Rosneft chief said oil and gas deposits covering an area of some 125,000 square kilometers in the Kara Sea could contain reserves "comparable to the resource base of Saudi Arabia."
The start of the project comes after the United States, European Union, and others have imposed a series of increasingly severe sanctions on Russia for the Kremlin's interference in Ukraine.
Some of those sanctions included prohibitions on sales of high-tech equipment for exploration and drilling in Arctic waters, such as the type of equipment being used in the Rosneft-ExxonMobil project in the Kara Sea.
But ExxonMobil has continued the project because it signed the contract to hire the rig for the Rosneft Arctic project before the sanctions were implemented.
Based on reporting by ITAR-TASS, Interfax, and Reuters