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Russian Foreign Ministry warns of retaliation against Belgian assets in Russia

June 18, 2015, 18:21 UTC+3
The statement came as a reaction to Belgium’s move to seize some Russian assets as part of the procedure for enforcing the court ruling on the Yukos case
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©  ITAR-TASS/Gennady Khamelyanin

MOSCOW, June 18. /TASS/. Belgium’s ambassador in Moscow was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry on Thursday to hear a protest over the arrest of bank accounts of the Russian embassy in Belgium, Russia’s permanent mission at the EU and NATO in Brussels and also a number of other Russian organizations. The Russian Foreign Ministry said that Moscow might consider proportionate measures against Belgian properties in Russia, including assets of the Belgian embassy.

"The Belgian ambassador was told that Russia considered such steps by the authorities of the Kingdom of Belgium as an openly unfriendly act and crude violation of universally recognized principles of international law and demanded that the Belgian side should take urgent measures to restore the sovereign rights of Russia violated in Belgium and ensure the normal operation of Russian offices and legal entities," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"Otherwise Russia will have to consider the question of taking proportionate retaliatory measures against the properties of the Kingdom of Belgium in Russia, including the embassy in Moscow and its legal entities," the Russian Foreign Ministry 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.

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