Russia will legally protect its interests in French Yukos shareholders’ case – Kremlin

Dmitry Peskov, Russian President's press secretary © Natalia Seliverstova
Russia is already taking measures to legally protect its interests, Vladimir Putin’s press secretary said in response to the impounding of assets in France connected with a $50 billion compensation claim from former Yukos shareholders.

Obviously, legal action is being held with the objective to defend the interests of the Russian Federation,” Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday. The official emphasized that all reciprocal measures will be strictly within the law.

The comments came following reports on Monday from Russian business news site RBC, which quoted the ruling of the Paris Appeals Court on the matter. The court stated that former shareholders of the dissolved oil company Yukos had forced French authorities to impound the money sent by space company Arianespace and satellite operator Eutelsat to their business partners in Russia. The site added that the shareholders could also claim Air France’s regular payments to Russia for flying over Siberia.

In July 2014 the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ordered Russia to pay $50 billion in compensation to several former shareholders of Yukos, which was dissolved in the mid-2000s after its CEO and main owner, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, received a lengthy prison sentence in Russia for tax evasion and fraud. The Hague court said Yukos “was the object of a series of politically motivated attacks” - charges that Russian officials and lawyers had repeatedly refuted.

READ MORE: France freezes Russian state assets, Moscow plans to appeal

In June this year French law enforcers froze the accounts of Russian companies operated by the French subsidiary of Russia’s second-largest bank VTB. They also placed restrictions on a number of Russian diplomatic accounts, but these were unfrozen after a short period of time.

Back then Russia promised that the seizure of its property would be appealed in court. “We believe that all this is illegal and we are taking a series of actions to protect our interests in court,” Vladimir Putin’s aide Andrey Belousov said. “The situation in France and Belgium [with the arrest of the property] is highly politicized,” he added.

In June President Vladimir Putin said that Russia does not recognize the ruling of the court in The Hague, as it doesn’t participate in the European Energy Charter. "We cannot but react to this [arrest of foreign assets]. We will protect our interests," Putin said during his meeting with the heads of international news agencies at the 2015 St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. The decision of the Arbitration Court in The Hague can be valid only with respect to those countries that have signed and ratified the European Energy Charter, Putin added.

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

In early December Justice Minister Aleksandr Konovalov told reporters that Russia had already appealed the decision of the Hague court in seven or eight countries, adding that Russian lawyers had presented valid counter-arguments in their appeals. The minister noted, however, that the appeal process would take a very long time.