A flame rises from a chimney at Taq Taq oil field in Arbil, in Iraq's Kurdistan region, August 16, 2014. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
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Last October, at the height of a political crisis in Iraq's Kurdistan region, a letter arrived at the Iraqi oil ministry in Baghdad from Igor Sechin, head of Kremlin oil major Rosneft.Kurdistan, a region of about 6 million people in northern Iraq, had just tried and failed to break away from the rest of the country. Sechin held a stronger hand than many Iraqi officials realized, according to seven sources familiar with the matter.Sechin and the Kremlin have repeatedly said Rosneft's projects are purely commercial, not political. The Iraqi oil ministry declined to comment on any political aspects of the Rosneft deal.Sechin helped him nationalize much of the Russian oil industry and was appointed Rosneft CEO in 2012 .Iraq's central government, however, says any Kurdish deals with overseas firms, or to export oil from Kurdistan, are illegal without Baghdad's blessing.Rosneft paid the last tranche of the $1.8 billion deal sum to Irbil, the sources said.
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