ST. PETERSURG, June 19. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin has pledged Russia would defend its property in France and Belgium by legal tools, via court procedures.
"We cannot but react [to the arrest of Russian property], we will defend our interests," Putin said late on Friday at a meeting with top executives of world news agencies. He said Russia would resort to "court procedures as it was in the case with Switzerland’s NOGA claims." "We had a years-long litigation with NOGA and finally all the problems were solved," Putin said. "I think in this case we will work by the same pattern. And you’d better ask our lawyers what they exactly they are going to do. I don’t think there will any secrets here."
Putin stressed that Moscow’s position was that "The Hague Court is competent to decide on such cases only in respect of those countries that are signatories of the European Energy Charter." "Russia has not ratified this charter, so we do not recognize the jurisdiction of this court instance and will defend this position in the established procedure, via court," he said.
"There is nothing new that Yukos’ shareholders are seeking to make Russia pay extra money," he said. "We have seen such things before, both on the part of this company and on the part of other our partners, including European international companies. We will defend our interests in the frames of a civilized legal process." "These are purely legal issues. We will think how to organize it [legal protection of Russia’s interests," he pledged.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in July 2014 obliged Russia to pay nearly 50 billion U.S. dollars to companies affiliated with former Yukos shareholders. It ruled that Russia’s actions towards Yukos should be interpreted as expropriation of investment, which constitutes a violation of Article 45 of the Energy Charter Russia had signed but not ratified.
Russia has already expressed its emphatic disagreement with the Hague Court. Russia’s Ministry of Finance said at the end of last July the court’s ruling was a gross violation of conclusions by two chambers of the European Court of Human Rights.
The Ministry of Finance said the ECHR had twice concluded that Yukos had committed gross tax evasion, the company’s management was aware of the violations, all surcharges had been legal, Yukos had not been discriminated against and measures taken by the Russian authorities had nothing to do with politics. Also, the Ministry of Finance said the Court of Arbitration in The Hague lacked the corresponding jurisdiction to pronounce the decision it made.
Attempts to use Russian assets to enforce that ruling regarding complaints against Yukos Universal Limited have been made in France and Belgium. Earlier this week Belgian bailiffs demanded that a number of Russian companies operating in the country and the banks servicing them should within a fifteen-day deadline present the list of assets at the companies’ disposal that might be used to effect the court ruling.
The Russian foreign ministry said earlier accounts of the Russian embassy in Belgium and permanent missions at the European Union and NATO in Brussels had been blocked. Similar moves to freeze Russian assets were taken in France.