MOSCOW: The Kremlin on Wednesday hailed a Dutch court decision to quash a ruling ordering Russia to pay $50 billion in damages to shareholders of former oil giant Yukos.
“We welcome the decision from The Hague district court,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Peskov said Moscow hopes the ruling will see proceedings in various countries to freeze Russian assets over the case ended.
“We proceed from the assumption that the process of halting enforcement proceedings will begin in all countries,” he said.
Russian state assets have been frozen in several countries — including France and Belgium — over the claims, sparking a furious response from the Kremlin.
The Hague district court cancelled the 2014 ruling by the international Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, arguing it was “not competent” to rule on the matter and therefore Russia was “no longer liable for paying compensation to these parties”.
Yukos was once Russia’s biggest oil company but was broken up after its chief executive, Kremlin critic and ex-tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was arrested in 2003.
His arrest came shortly after President Vladimir Putin warned Russia’s growing class of oligarchs against meddling in politics.
Khodorkovsky slammed the Dutch decision, saying “the West has decided to weaken the pressure.”
“My friends will continue their resistance,” he wrote on Twitter.
Yukos was sold off in opaque auctions to state companies led by Rosneft between 2004 and 2006.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in 2014 that Russia had forced Yukos into bankruptcy with excessive tax claims and sold off its assets to state-owned companies.
Peskov conceded that Moscow “fully understands that this is not the end of the story.”
Lawyers representing Russia said the ruling meant moves to freeze Moscow’s assets around the world should be dropped and that a motion would be lodged in the United States to stop such action there.
“The effect of this is the awards are no longer legally in existence in the Netherlands,” lawyer Albert Jan van den Berg told a conference call.
The awarding of compensation “cannot be enforced and it cannot be enforced in 156 other states worldwide,” he added.
Khodorkovsky, who is no longer a stakeholder, spent a decade in prison on charges of tax evasion, fraud and embezzlement which he and his supporters say were trumped up in revenge for his political ambitions.
He was suddenly pardoned by Putin in 2013 and flown out of the country. AFP