British Petroleum has agreed to fund a Pounds 150,000 environmental education and language training programme in Russia's far east, where it plans to bid for an oil exploration contract.
The deal will pay for a resource centre, English teaching and professional retraining. It allows the British Council to extend its work to Russia's furthest border, where socio-economic problems are acute.
The environmental project with school, university and community involvement is modelled on the Scottish national strategy for ecological protection and awareness. It is designed to build goodwill in Sakhalin Island, where an off-shore oil and gas field with reserves the size of Britain's North Sea await exploitation.
Tony Andrews, director of the British Council in Russia, said: "BP is putting out the message that it is a responsible oil company.
"Of course it has commercial interests and the British Council can't act as its marketing arm, but by sponsoring activities we would be doing anyway we are able to justify this to the Charity Commissioners."