The Russian gas monolith, Gazprom, is making a concerted effort to increase its influence in Britain by targeting landmark buildings as customers.
The energy company, whose chairman is Dimitry Medvedev, the first deputy prime minister of Russia and a presidential hopeful, has also stepped up its lobbying efforts in the UK with the appointment of a high-profile spin doctor who successfully sold the concept of new nuclear plants to Blair’s government.
The Major Energy Users Council said many of its members had been offered good deals to switch their supplies to Gazprom. The restaurant chain Chez Gerrard, retail stores group Bhs and Sunderland football club have all recently become clients. So too has York Minster, and Headingley cricket ground. Other targets include the National Health Service as it seeks to increase market share in Britain from 2% now to 10% by 2010.
The moves have caused unease within industry circles which fear the growing corporate muscle of Gazprom amid wider concern that energy is being used by Vladimir Putin, Russia’s premier, as a tool for expanding political influence abroad.