updated 8/11/2004 9:22:22 AM ET 2004-08-11T13:22:22

Russian energy officials have asked government officials to give Yukos access to its frozen bank accounts, saying oil production and exports could be substantially cut if the embattled oil company is forced to cut output.

News reports quoted Sergei Oganesyan, head of the Federal Energy Agency, as saying a drop in production from Yukos — Russia’s largest oil producer— could be detrimental to the country as a whole.

Officials have frozen Yukos accounts as they move to collect on the company’s $3.4 billion tax debt for 2000, part of a series of tax claims and court cases widely seen as Kremlin retribution for the growing clout of its form CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

It’s very possible that Yukos will have to halt output. It’s impossible for a company to produce oil without financing,” Dow Jones Newswires quoted Oganesyan as saying.

Yukos executives have repeatedly said they will have to scale back output if bailiffs don’t give the company access to cash.

“If a company can’t pay for customs, transport or equipment, it will have to stop well flow,” Oganesyan said, according to Dow Jones. “Our goal is to prevent this from happening. There are a lot of social consequences that could happen in the event of such a collapse.”

Energy and Industry Ministry spokesman Yan Pekhonen confirmed the request had been made. Oganesyan’s agency is an executive body of the ministry.

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