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Russian Oil Firm Rosneft Rejects Statement from Gazprom Over Merger

The Russian state-owned oil firm Rosneft has rejected a statement by the giant natural gas company Gazprom about their planned merger.

Wednesday, Gazprom chief Alexei Miller said the Yuganskneftegaz production unit would become an independent state company led by Rosneft head Sergei Bogdanchikov.

Rosneft Thursday said the statement does not correspond with reality, and should be taken as opinion.

The merger would give the state a controlling stake in Gazprom, which would allow the lifting of a ban on foreign ownership of its shares.

The government had seized Yuganskneftegaz for failure to pay taxes and sold it at auction last year. Rosneft acquired the unit from a previously unknown company that purchased it at the auction.

Critics accuse the Kremlin of trying to tighten control of the oil market and retaliate for former Yukos chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky's support of the political opposition, charges authorities deny.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and Reuters.