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US Expresses Concern About Yukos Case - 2003-10-31

The State Department expressed renewed concern Friday about moves by Russian prosecutors against the Yukos oil company and its billionaire chairman, Mikhail Khodorkovsky. There have been diplomatic contacts on the issue in both Moscow and Washington.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says the freezing of Yukos shares raises "serious questions about the rule of law in Russia" and has sparked concerns both among both Russian and international investors about respect for ownership rights in that country, issues he said that need to be addressed by the government of President Vladimir Putin.

"We think the Russian authorities need to dispel concerns that the Yukos case is politically motivated," he said. "They need to insure that it's judged fairly and with full regard for due process of law, applied in a non-selective fashion."

A senior diplomat told reporters here U.S. officials are "not yet" fully satisfied by Russian explanations that the move against Yukos is a specific legal case and does not foreshadow a roll-back of post-Soviet-era market reforms. He said the issue has been raised diplomatically in both capitals and will be a matter of continuing discussion with Moscow.