New amendments extend Russia’s legal rights to include continental shelf

© Alexei Danichev
The State Duma property committee is set to approve a bill that would allow Russian courts to limit the property rights of foreign states on Russian territory. It also proposed extending these powers to the continental shelf.

In its current form, the draft document states that Russian courts can seize the foreign states’ property in Russia using the principle of ‘mutuality of jurisdictional immunity’, if it’s established that the Russian Federation’s jurisdictional immunity abroad has been restricted.

However, RBC news agency reported on Monday that parliamentary experts suggest that, prior to parliamentary hearings, the bill be amended with provisions extending the definition of foreign property to include various assets that physically remain on all territories where Russia exercises its economic jurisdiction under international law.

READ MORE: Russian govt drafts bill allowing reciprocal seizure of foreign nations’ property

This applies primarily to the continental shelf and also to any property that has been leased to a foreign state for an indefinite period of time.

The key session of the parliamentary property committee dedicated to the foreign property bill is scheduled for Tuesday.

The original bill was drafted to parliament by the government in early August this year. According to the appendix, it would not contradict various international treaties with Russia’s participation, including the pact on the Eurasian Economic Union.

The bill was prepared by the Justice Ministry in July this year, soon after several European countries, such as Belgium and France, had frozen Russian state companies’ assets. This was in connection with a June 2014 ruling by the International Court in The Hague ordering Russia to pay compensation of $39.9 billion, $1.85 billion and $8.2 billion to three companies connected with Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s Yukos company. The oil giant was dissolved in 2007 after its senior managers and key owners were jailed for tax evasion.

READ MORE: Russia will ‘protect its interests’ in European assets freeze – Putin

In addition to the bill allowing the reciprocal impounding of foreign nations’ property, in early July this year the Russian Constitutional Court decided that no international treaty or convention has precedence over national sovereignty, and decisions by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) should be upheld only when they don’t contradict basic Russian law.

The judge who announced the ruling explained that Russia can now refuse to fulfill the obligations imposed by the ECHR rulings, when such a refusal is the only way to prevent the violation of the basic law.