Russia has been ordered to pay $51.5bn to Yukos shareholders by the world’s top commercial court in the biggest such award of all time, ruling that the Kremlin fabricated evidence to destroy the oil company and eliminate its founder, Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
The judgment marks the culmination of a 10-year drama and amounts to a damning verdict on the legal abuses of President Vladimir Putin. It raises awkward questions about the conduct of BP and other Western companies that bid for Yukos fields or have teamed up with Rosneft and Gazprom, ignoring warnings that they were acquiring “stolen assets” without legal protection.
It also ratchets up the pressure on the Kremlin a day before EU ministers meet to debate sanctions aimed at shutting Russia’s banks out of global finance. “Today is a great day for the rule of law. A superpower has been unanimously held accountable for its violation of international law by an independent tribunal of the highest repute,” said Emmanuel Gaillard, a lawyer for GML, one of the three plaintiffs.
The award by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague is 20 times larger than any previous ruling. It was backed by all three judges, a Canadian, a Swiss and an American picked by the Russians themselves. They appeared irked that the Kremlin did not furnish fact witnesses from the finance ministry.
The award raises the external debt of the Russian state, banks and companies to $770bn at a stroke. The foreign currency debt will rise to $610bn. Russia must start making payments by mid-January. After that the damages will accrue at interest rates fixed to the US 10-year bond yield.
There is no appeals procedure, though Russia could try to quash the case on a technicality. The Kremlin said the verdict was “one-sided and politically motivated”. Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said his country will use “all available legal possibilities to defend its position”.
Russia is in a difficult economic position of Putin’s creation, and it is likely to remain there until he is replaced.
Russia will lose the most from sanctions - This article by Rob Wood, UK economist at Berenberg Bank and former economist at the Bank of England, for The Telegraph is worth reading.
(See also Tuesday’s much more detailed assessment on this situation.)Back to top