Russian media reported that Rosneft bought 100 percent of all shares in the little-known company, Baikal Finans Group, giving it more than three-quarters of the shares in Yukos’ Yuganskneftegaz production unit, which Baikal Finans Group bought at a government auction on Sunday for $US9 billion ($A11.8 billion).

Rosneft spokesman Alexander Stepanenko confirmed the deal.

“The owners of Baikal Finans made us an offer to sell their company and we took it,” he said, however declined to disclose the purchase price.

The Russian government had ordered the auction to enforce a $27 billion tax bill it said Yukos owes.

The deal moves the Yuganskneftegaz one step closer to control by Gazprom, and is the latest manoeuvre in a complex web of actions taken by Russia’s government and the country’s energy giants.

In the past several months, the Russian government has announced it would fold Rosneft into the oil assets of the natural gas giant, Gazprom, and form a new company.

That company, called Gazpromneft, had been widely expected to purchase the Yuganskneftegaz production unit at Sunday’s auction, but was stopped just days earlier by a US bankruptcy court order.

Yukos executives claimed Yuganskneftegaz was grossly undervalued in Sunday’s sale.

If Yuganskneftegaz is folded into a Gazprom-Rosneft structure, it would give Gazprom a daily oil production capacity of 1.6 million barrels, which some say would make it one of the world’s largest oil companies.

Many commentators see Sunday’s auction as part of a Moscow campaign to crush Yukos’ politically ambitious owner, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and seize control of strategic sectors of the economy sold off in the 1990s.

Mr Khodorkovsky is in jail on separate fraud charges.

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