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MOSCOW, October 29. /TASS/. The Kremlin will take all necessary legal protection measures, following the seizure of the state media holding VGTRK’s shares in the French company Euronews S.A., the operator of Euronews TV Channel, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday.
"The Kremlin knows about this and all legal efforts are under way to protect the legitimate interests of the Russian Federation and its property," Peskov told journalists.
Russia’s state media holding VGTRK confirmed to TASS on Thursday that its stake in the French company Euronews S.A., the operator of the international news channel Euronews, had been seized under lawsuits filed by former Yukos shareholders.
"We confirm the fact of the seizure of our shares but cannot any longer comment on this so far. All the details will be available following the end of judicial proceedings," the VGTRK press office said.
Media reports earlier said VGTRK’s 7.5% stake in the French Euronews S.A. operating Euronews TV Channel was among the assets seized abroad under lawsuits filed by former shareholders of the now defunct oil giant Yukos.
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.
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.