Yuri Shafranik, head of SoyuzNefteGaz since its creation in 2000, is Russian oil diplomacy's homing missile. Energy minister under Boris Eltsin, he has guided Russia back to into the oil and gas industries of its former satellites and Arab allies. In December 2013, he obtained several permits in Syria despite the ongoing civil war and has been active in the past in such countries as Algeria, Colombia and Uzbekistan. In Iraq, he became a key figure in the entourage of prime minister Nouri al-Maliki and helped Russia to land a $4 billion arms contract with the authorities in Bagdad.

Today, with his great knowledge of the inner workings of the Russian administration, he is able to promote international, as well as domestic projects. He began his career in the state oil industry of the Soviet Union before going into politics. He became governor of the oblast (region) of Tyumen from 1990 to 1993 and, thanks to his double status as oil industry personality and politician, was appointed Minister of Fuel and Energy from 1990 to 1993 by Boris Eltsin. Next, he headed several oil companies in his native region, among them the Tyumen Oil Co, which was in the process of being privatised at the time. In 2000, he set up his own company, SoyuzNefteGaz, using funds provided by the Russian central bank and the Belarusian state bank. His career path brought him into contract with most of Russia existing oligarchs.

Shafranik currently makes increasing use of the contacts he makes as president of the energy strategy and oil development committee of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation. Since 2003, he has also been head of the Union of Oil & Gas Producers of Russia (UOGPR), one of Moscow's most powerful lobbying bodies. In Western Europe, he has an operating base in London, where he is partnered by fellow Russian Mikhail Kroupeev and English baron Frederick Ponsonby.

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