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European Court Rules Russia Violated Yukos' Rights


Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky stands behind a glass wall at a court in Moscow, Russia (file photo)

Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky stands behind a glass wall at a court in Moscow, Russia (file photo)

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Russia violated the rights of the now-defunct oil giant Yukos. But the court cleared the Russian government of trying to destroy Yukos and said its actions were not politically motivated.

The Strasbourg-based court said Tuesday Russian authorities violated Yukos' right to a fair trial under the European Convention on Human Rights by not giving the oil company enough time to prepare its defense and unfairly calculating and imposing tax penalties.

Yukos, once headed by jailed opposition figure Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was seeking $98 billion in damages over claims it was illegally targeted by the state for tax fraud. Those representing Yukos want the Russian government to pay back the taxes, fines and penalties that the company was charged.

Russian authorities dismantled Yukos after the 2003 arrest of Khodorkovsky. His supporters say then-president Vladimir Putin's government mounted an effort to destroy the tycoon, who was seen as a threat to Putin's rule.

The European Court of Human Rights adjourned its decision on the compensation claim. The parties have three months to appeal the ruling.

Khodorkovsky, once Russia's richest man, built Yukos into Russia's largest oil company along with his business partner, Platon Lebedev. The two remain in prison on 13-year sentences after being convicted of tax fraud, money laundering and stealing oil.

Khodorkovsky and Lebedev say they are innocent victims of politically motivated charges.

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