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Speedy Resolution to Yukos Probe Needed, says Russian Trade Minister - 2003-07-21

Russian Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref says the government should quickly resolve its probe of oil industry giant Yukos in order to stabilize Russia's financial markets.

Top Yukos investor Platon Lebedev is being investigated for possible involvement in fraud and several company executives are under scrutiny in a murder probe.

In an interview with a Russian magazine Profil published Monday, Mr. Gref said he hopes prosecutors consider the impact a lengthy investigation could have on Russia's fragile economy.

Yukos stock has lost about a quarter of its value in recent weeks and has brought much of the broader market down with it.

The investigation has raised fears of a re-examination of the 1990s privatization drive that handed control of some of Russia's richest assets to a handful of politically-connected businessmen. However, Mr. Gref repeated last week's statement by Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov that the privatizations cannot be reversed.