that Russia has abolished for two years import duties and customs taxes for offshore drilling rigs temporarily imported to Russia for exploration work, the government said on Tuesday.
The measure is the first step toward a long-discussed reduction of taxes for energy companies
exploring offshore fields, which are expected to contain massive oil and gas reserves but are more expensive to develop than onshore fields.
The government said it had cancelled customs duties and taxes for offshore rigs to be rented by a Russian citizen
from a foreign owner for five months.
The government has also been discussing the idea of mineral resource tax breaks to develop offshore fields -- a benefit similar to that introduced last year for the underdeveloped but resource-rich region of East Siberia.
Among the companies most interested in the benefits are state-controlled oil firm Rosneft and gas giant Gazprom which are developing major projects offshore the Pacific island of Sakhalin.
Also concerned is privately owned Lukoil the country's second biggest oil producer, which is developing deposits in the Caspian Sea.
Russia has said its offshore deposits could contain billions of barrels of oil and gas reserves, but has signaled all major blocks will be awarded at closed tender to state-owned companies, such as Rosneft and Gazprom. (Reporting by Tanya Mosolova)