Russia warns of retaliation
SAINT PETERSBURG: President Vladimir Putin vowed to defend Russia’s interests after state accounts and property were reportedly blocked in Belgium and France over legal claims from shareholders of former energy giant Yukos.
“We will defend our interests by the route of justice,” said Putin.
“Our position is clear: Russia does not recognize the authority of this court,” he added, in reference to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which had ruled that Moscow should repay Yukos shareholders $50 billion in compensation over the company’s collapse.
Moscow threatened Friday to retaliate against state-linked foreign firms operating in Russia after its official assets in Western Europe were frozen over legal claims by former Yukos oil company shareholders.
Russian officials said state accounts had been frozen in Belgium, and representatives of claimants from the defunct oil firm said Russian assets were also blocked in France.
The former shareholders are trying to collect some of the record $50 billion (44 billion euros) in compensation awarded to them by an arbitration court last year for the way Russia seized and dismantled the company after arresting Yukos owner and promi- nent Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky in 2003.
The Russian leader did not specify what the legal route entails, but earlier, foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said in televised comments that Russian entities impacted by the moves were preparing to go to court to force the freezing of the assets of “foreign companies with government involvement” in Russia.
In Belgium, accounts of the Russian embassy in Brussels and representative offices at the European Union and NATO headquarters were among those affected, the Russian foreign ministry said Thursday.
In France, accounts in around 40 banks were frozen along with eight or nine buildings, Tim Osborne, executive director of the main shareholder GML, told Agence France-Presse.
“Russia is working on it. What our response will be — time will tell,” deputy foreign minister Vasily Nebenzya told Interfax news agency, adding that “whoever acts like this has to understand that there will be a counter reaction.”
The speaker of Russia’s parliament Sergei Naryshkin described the asset freezes in Europe as “highway robbery.”
The row came as relations between Russia and the EU sank to a low over the conflict in Ukraine, with the Europeans accusing Moscow of supporting and arming the rebellion in the east of the former Soviet state — a claim that Russia denies.