LUBMIN, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 02: The receiving station of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline stands on February 02, 2022 near Lubmin, Germany. Nord Stream 2, which is owned by Russian energy company Gazprom, is to transport Russian natural gas from Russia to Germany along over 1,200km of twin pipeline stretching across the bottom of the Baltic Sea. While Nord Stream 2 was completed in September of 2021, operation has been held up by German regulators. Most recently both German and EU officials have raised the possibility of halting Nord Stream 2 due to the build-up of Russian military forces on the border to Ukraine. The build-up has stoked international fears of an imminent military invasion. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

BY: JAKE ZUCKERMAN – Ohio Capital Journal

Two Ohio public employee pension programs currently have a combined $38 million invested a Russian state-owned natural gas company, while another pension program has $147 million invested in the region.

The Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) has about $25.1 million invested in Gazprom in a combination of stocks and bonds, according to a spokesman.

The School Employees Retirement System (SERS) has about $13 million invested in the company, according to a spokesman.

The School Teachers Retirement System (STRS) did not offer specifics on Gazprom, but a spokesman said it has about $147 million in Russia and Ukraine.

Gazprom is a natural gas driller, shipper, and seller, controlled by the Russian government and among the largest companies in the world.

Some investors have pulled out of the company in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has included attacks on civilians. For instance, Shell announced Monday it’s ending an “equity partnership” in multiple Gazprom ventures. BP announced it’s pulling out of investments with a different Russian state-owned gas company. The U.S. and other western countries have imposed sanctions on Gazprom’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline and other sweeping penalties aimed at Russia.

Gazprom’s stock price, meanwhile, has plummeted.

None of the Ohio pensions announced plans to divest, and they all emphasized that their Gazprom and Russian holdings are but a small percentage of their investments.

For instance, OPERS spokesman Michael Pramik said its $25.1 million in Gazprom amounts to .02% of its $123.8 billion in investments. Pramik didn’t answer directly whether the pension plans to divest, but said it is in compliance with federal restrictions on foreign economic activity.

“On a personal level, we are disturbed by the events taking place this week and hope for a peaceful resolution and the safety of the Ukrainian people,” he said.

Spokesman Tim Barbour said SERS’ $13 million in Gazprom amounts to .0007% of its $18.2 billion in investments. He noted the pension’s stake in Gazprom has decreased from $26.5 million in 2014. He said the pension has “encouraged” portfolio managers to find alternate choices.

“At this time, we have not determined if additional measures will be implemented in our investment strategies due to Russia’s unprovoked military attack on sovereign Ukraine,” he said.

The Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund does not have any investments in Gazprom, per a spokesman. The Ohio Highway Patrol Retirement System said the same.

In a letter Wednesday, Attorney General Dave Yost asked the pensions to divest from Russian investments.

“I write today to request with exceptional urgency that you inventory your Russian equities and move to divest them with all deliberate speed, if you have not already done so,” he said. “This is a matter of moral imperative, for Russia’s aggression must not be supported with Ohio capital — particularly the retirement assets of Ohio public employees, some of whom are of Ukranian descent.”

JAKE ZUCKERMAN is a statehouse reporter. He spent three years chronicling the West Virginia Legislature for The Charleston Gazette-Mail after covering cops and courts for The Northern Virginia Daily.

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