LONDON (Reuters) - BP (BP.L) will use its presence in Russia to help enhance relations between Moscow and the West, Chief Executive Bob Dudley said on Thursday as he restated his company's commitment to the country.
Russia and the West are in a stand-off over Ukraine that is reminiscent of the Cold War. In the last few days, tensions have risen in the mainly Russian-speaking eastern part of Ukraine.
Britain's BP is the most exposed to Russia of the oil majors through its stake of just under 20 percent in the Kremlin's state oil champion Rosneft (ROSN.MM).
"We will seek to pursue our business activities mindful that the mutual dependency between Russia as an energy supplier and Europe as an energy consumer has been an important source of security and engagement for both parties for many decades," Dudley said at the company's annual shareholders' meeting.
"That has got to continue and I think we play an important role as a bridge."
The United States and European Union have imposed visa bans and asset freezes against Russian and Ukrainian individuals in response to Moscow's annexation of Crimea.
They have said they are willing, if necessary, to levy a further round of sanctions aimed at key sectors of the Russian economy such as energy, banking and mining.
Russia is responsible for over a quarter of BP's oil output worldwide and more than a third of its oil and gas reserves.
BP's chief executive said last month the company "absolutely" stands by its investments in the country.
Dudley, a U.S. citizen, had strained relations with Russian officials during his time as an oil executive in Moscow.
He was forced to flee the country, saying he feared for his security during a 2008 dispute between BP and a group of Russian oligarchs over corporate governance at TNK-BP, where he was then
TNK-BP was ultimately sold to Rosneft for $55 billion last year, giving BP a stake in Rosneft.
Reporting by Dmitry Zhdannikov; Editing by Pravin Char