Russian fury at Belgium asset seizure in Yukos oil case

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Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his partners sued the Russian state after Yukos was broken up

Russia has protested to the Belgian ambassador over the seizure of Russian state assets in Belgium – a move triggered by a court ruling over the now-defunct Yukos oil firm.

The ambassador was told that the asset seizure was “an openly hostile act” that “crudely violates the recognised norms of international law”.

Last year a court told Russia to pay Yukos shareholders $50bn (£32bn) in compensation, after Yukos’s break-up.

A Russian state firm took over Yukos.

Last July an international arbitration court in The Hague said Russian officials had manipulated the legal system to bankrupt Yukos, and jail its boss, the oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

France has also seized Russian state accounts in about 40 banks, along with eight or nine buildings, AFP news agency reports.

In a statement on Facebook, Mr Khodorkovsky, who spent 10 years in detention in Russia, expressed joy at the asset seizures.

“I am not a beneficiary in this process as the partners redeemed my share back in 2004. But this does not prevent me from sincerely rejoicing, as a Russian citizen, at what is happening now.

“This is a symbolic moment for our country,” he said, calling it “a signal that theft will not escape punishment, no matter how all-powerful the thief was”.

Russian warning

A Russian foreign ministry statement (in Russian) said Russia demanded that Belgium reverse its asset seizure. If no such action was taken, Russia warned, it would consider “appropriate reciprocal measures” against the Belgian embassy and unnamed Belgian officials.

Earlier, Russia’s Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev ruled out any compensation for Yukos shareholders. Their interests are now represented by a Gibraltar-registered holding company, GML.

Russia is appealing against the court ruling of last July, Mr Ulyukayev said.

The asset seizures in Belgium and France also affect Russian media, including TASS news agency and state broadcaster VGTRK, Russian media report.

GML manager Tim Osborne was quoted in French media as saying similar legal action was being taken against Russian state assets in the UK and US.

 

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