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STRELNA, June 18. /TASS/. Russia completely rules out the possibility of paying compensation under a lawsuit of former Yukos shareholders, Economic Development Minister Alexey Ulyukayev said on Thursday.
"I completely rule this out," he said.
The economy minister said, however, risks existed that claims to Russia’s property as enforcement of the European court’s ruling in the Yukos case might be presented not only in Belgium and France but also in some other countries.
"Indeed, we may also expect this sort of unfriendly actions in other jurisdictions. We must assess the risks and we believe this risk exists," the economy minister said.
At the same time, the volume of Russia’s state assets seized abroad was insignificant but this very fact was unpleasant, the economy minister said.
The Kremlin gave no comment on Belgium’s move to seize some Russian assets as part of the procedure for enforcing the court ruling on the Yukos case.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said lawyers and the government were now dealing with this issue.
"The corresponding unit in the Russian government and also, in the first place, lawyers are now dealing with this matter and so I wouldn’t like to comment on anything," the Kremlin spokesman said.
"We still need to clarify some details to get a full picture," he added.
"No doubt, we’re now carefully and attentively learning all the circumstances of this lawsuit," Peskov said.
The Kremlin spokesman said he would not link the enforcement of this lawsuit with the beginning of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum that was discussing Russia’s investment climate.
‘This has nothing to do with the investment environment in Russia. This environment is of interest for business circles, which can be eloquently proved by the composition of the forum’s participants," the Kremlin spokesman said.
In July 2014, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague passed a ruling obliging Russia to pay $50 billion compensation to former Yukos shareholders who claimed $100 billion from Moscow.
In its final awards, the arbitration tribunal unanimously ruled that Russia "had taken measures with the effect equivalent to an expropriation of claimants’ investments in Yukos and thus had breached the Energy Charter Treaty."
Russia, which signed but did not ratify the Energy Charter Treaty, has repeatedly said it categorically disagrees with the Hague tribunal’s ruling.
The Russian Finance Ministry said in late July last year the conclusions by the Arbitration Tribunal ran counter to the conclusions of the European Court of Human Rights.
"The European Court of Human Rights has concluded twice that Yukos committed large-scale tax evasion and its management was aware of violations, that all extra tax payments required from Yukos were lawful and legitimate and that Yukos was not discriminated against and the actions by the Russian authorities were not politically motivated," the Russian Finance Ministry said in a statement at that time.
Also, the Hague Arbitration Court had no jurisdiction to examine issues raised before it, the Russian Finance Ministry said.
The attempts to seize Russian property for enforcing the court’s ruling in the Yukos case have already been made in France and Belgium.
Specifically, Belgian bailiffs sent a letter this week ordering some Russian companies operating in Belgium and their servicing banks to submit a list within a term of 15 years to indicate their assets for subsequently enforcing the court’s ruling.
Yukos, once Russia’s largest oil firm, was accused of tax crimes and declared a bankrupt by a court ruling in 2006 while its assets were sold at auctions during the liquidation procedure.
Yukos former head Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev were found guilty of embezzlement and tax evasion in May 2005 and sentenced to nine years in prison.
While serving their prison term, both Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were found guilty of embezzlement and money laundering in a second criminal case in December 2010 and sentenced to 14 years in prison, with account taken of the jail term they had served.
Khodorkovsky was pardoned by Russian President Vladimir Putin and left the prison in December 2013. Lebedev was released from the jail in early 2014.