Yukos

By Bruce Misamore, former CFO of Yukos

As the world flails about looking for ways to get Russia’s attention over the Ukraine and Crimean crises, and Vladimir Putin looks on impassively, the UK has a unique opportunity to take a long overdue and meaningful action: delist Rosneft from the London Stock Exchange. 

By Bruce Misamore

Ten years ago this month my friend and business colleague, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was arrested at gunpoint in Novosibirsk – the start of a chain of state-sponsored intimidation and corruption in Russia. There is no doubt that the hand of Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin was very much at the steering wheel for this very public and televised event. The shock of this political act reverberated around the world – no more so than in the boardroom at Yukos Oil Company headquarters. 

Former Yukos oil company chief executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky stands in the defendant's glass cage in a Moscow courtroom on November 2, 2010. Mikhail Khodorkovsky could walk free in 2014 following a decision by a Moscow court to reduce the tycoon’s jail sentence by two years. But Russia’s most famous prisoner is not going to kowtow to the authorities and thank the judiciary for any favours. As far as he’s concerned the charges against him are trumped up and he should not be in jail at all.

At the end of a lengthy appeals process, a Moscow court upheld the guilty verdict handed down at the second trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky in 2010, but reduced the sentence by two years citing amendments to Russian law. 

Russia must have feared the worst from Tuesday’s Strasbourg ruling on the Yukos affair: headlines saying Moscow had been found to have expropriated the oil company’s assets and should pay tens of billions in damages to shareholders.

In the event, the European Court of Human Rights ruling was a lot better news for the Russian government than for the Yukos side. 

The year-long trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former Yukos oil tycoon and Russia’s best-known prisoner, has involved days of stultifying boredom as the prosecutors have read out aloud hundreds of pages of oil contracts.

But today the trial was both fascinating and disturbing. The prosecutors were questioning a witness for the defence, Tatyana Lysova, the editor-in-chief of Vedomosti, the Russian business daily, about what she knew about Yukos and how she went about her work. Lysova came out of the ordeal with flying colours. The Soviet-style prosectors did not.