Energy giant BP and the Russian state-controlled firm Rosneft have announced agreement on a major share swap as part of a joint venture to explore the potentially vast energy resources of the Arctic.
Under the deal announced late January 14, officials said Rosneft will acquire 5 percent of BP's shares in exchange for BP receiving approximately 9.5 percent of Rosneft's shares.
The BP stake is reportedly worth just under $8 billion.
The companies have said they are planning jointly to explore off the Russian Arctic continental shelf -- a region that reports say could contain billions of barrels of oil and gas.
Attending the announcement ceremony, Rosneft chairman and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin said the agreement shows that Russia is taking a major role among the world's energy powers.
British Energy Secretary Chris Huhne, who was also in attendance, welcomed the agreement, calling it a "groundbreaking deal" that deepens ties between Britain and Russia.
Some U.S. politicians have already raised concerns.
Representative Edward Markey (Democrat, Massachusetts) has called for a review of the agreement to determine if there are any implications for U.S. national and economic security. He noted that BP -- which he dubbed "Bolshoi Petroleum" -- has been a major supplier of petroleum to the U.S. military.
Rosneft inherited significant assets from the breakup of Yukos, which Russian authorities dismantled after launching criminal proceedings against its head, jailed Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
BP is already facing intense scrutiny in the U.S. following its conspicuous failures last year in the Gulf Of Mexico, where an oil-rig blowout killed 11 workers and created the world's largest ever accidental offshore oil spill
Critics are likely to take a dim view of the Arctic aspect of the Rosneft deal, given BP's widely criticized actions in connection with the "Deepwater Horizon" disaster.
compiled from agency reports