On October, 20 at Vnukovo airport the corporate “Falcon-50” jet was taking off as it clipped a snow-plough and burst into flames. Three members of crew and Total's CEO Christophe de Margerie were lost.
The Investigations Committee of Russia has set out two basic versions of the accident: criminal negligence by the dispatcher and the crash through snow-plough driver fault. The driver was accused by investigating authorities of being drunk. The lawyer and relatives of the driver state that he has a chronic disease non compatible with drinking.
Observers has taken notice to the following: the plane was in good order, the crew was experienced and capable to flight in any circumstances (It was foggy that day). In other words, there was no objective cause for the accident to happen, but it occurred. The first obvious factor which led to the tragedy is systemic deficiencies in business activity arrangement at the aviation enterprise as well as at the safety ensuring units. The second one is a human factor (euphemism for Russian disorder, sloppiness and irresponsibility).
It is possible to conduct show investigation and then to punish a little man. Most likely they let it be so. But one can be sure that the story about malice or elimination of the undesirables will never appear in the investigation reports, at least, in official papers. However one cannot exclude that the crash at Vnukovo airport has been a contract killing.
Christophe de Margerie was an enthusiast of doing business with and in Russia. On the day of his death, he took part at the Advisory council annual meeting devoted to foreign investment in Russia chaired by the Prime-Minister of the Russian Federation Medvedev.
Now public doesn’t know exactly what had happened at the meeting or in its margins, but it is widely known that in September 2014 Mr. de Margerie announced suspension of joint venture creation together with Lukoil due to EU sanctions. This project was aimed to explore for shale oil in Russia.
One more Total’s project – participation in Novatec’s “Yamal compressed natural gas“ project - appears to be a problem. The joint venture has confronted with great difficulties trying to attract investors; moreover, some western companies have refused to deliver equipment for LNG plant (Total has just been constructing the facilities). Besides the Shtokman field development project (with Norwegians and Gazprom) was shelved, and Total lost 340 million dollars it had already spent for the project.
Thus one can reasonably suggest that Total’s management and Christophe de Margerie personally, had revised approach towards Russia and decided to curtail Russian projects. Such a stand could have pushed large Western companies operating in Russia to similar conclusions concerning doing business with Russians and, finally, have painfully hit Putin's image and pride. It’s easy to guess what resolution had the person with KGB-past been able to adopt.
There is an important fact, backing the given assumption. Major-general Gurevich has been appointed the head of investigation team to investigate the air crash in Vnukovo international airport. It’s interesting, but it was he who investigated circumstances of the jet TU-154 wreck with Polish President Kachinsky onboard near Smolensk.