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Russia says no Opec meeting in mid-December

[MOSCOW]Russia on Monday poured cold water on prospects for a meeting with the Opec oil cartel this month, despite oil prices plunging below US$40 per barrel.

Both Energy Minister Alexander Novak and Igor Sechin, the head of Kremlin-controlled oil firm Rosneft, said last month a meeting between independent producers and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) was possible in mid-December. "As of now, no meeting is expected," a spokeswoman for the ministry told Reuters on Monday. Rosneft declined to comment.

Russia, which had initially signalled its willingness to closely cooperate with Opec, did not send a senior delegation to Vienna prior to the Dec 4 Opec meeting, as it did last year.

Only Deputy Energy Minister Kirill Molodtsov, as well as the heads of Gazprom Neft and Lukoil, which are active in the Middle East, flew to Vienna for some separate meetings.

Moscow is still unwilling to cut oil production, referring to its harsh climate, which makes it hard to restart oil wells.

The Opec meeting ended in disarray as the members could not agree on any policy change.

Since then, the price of oil has plunged below US$40 per barrel to trade at around US$38 on Monday, close to the US$35 level seen as breakeven by Bank of America Merrill Lynch for Russian oil producers.

In November, Russia continued extracting oil at a post-Soviet high of 10.78 million barrels per day despite weak oil prices.

Mr Molodtsov has said Russian oil companies will trim investments next year but keep the pace of oil production growth.