Exxon is moving the West Alpha drilling rig from Norway to Russia’s Kara Sea with its partner Rosneft.
Last week the United States hit Rosneft with economic sanction because of Russia’s role in eastern Ukraine.
The shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines passenger plane, killing all 298 onboard, may lead to more sanctions.
“The joint activity does not necessarily break the latest sanctions, but the rig’s mission will be seen a sign that a top U.S. company is backing Moscow,” Reuters said Monday.
“It’s a bit discordant with the message that the United States government is trying to send, having this long-planned summer drilling season go ahead right now,” said Elizabeth Rosenberg, energy program director at the Center for a New American Security think-tank and a former sanctions adviser at the Treasury Department.
“We are evaluating the impact of the sanctions and don’t have anything further at this time,” Exxon said in emailed comments.
The West Alpha rig is owned by Norway-listed Seadrill.
Exxon has contracted the rig until the third quarter of 2016.
Seadrill confirmed that the rig had already sailed from a yard in Norway on its way to the Kara Sea.
Earlier this year, Greenpeace climbers scaled the West Alpha rig Russian Arctic waters.
Truls Gulowsen, head of Greenpeace Norway, didn’t say whether Greenpeace was planning another protest, according to Reuters..