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Yukos Given Five Days To Pay $3.4 Billion --> 1 July 2004 -- Russian court officials have reportedly given oil giant Yukos five days to pay $3.4 billion in back taxes.

Yukos spokesman Aleksandr Shadrin told reporters today that court bailiffs delivered the ultimatum to the firm's Moscow offices. It threatens confiscation of Yukos assets in the event of noncompliance.

Yukos has said any demand to pay immediately would bankrupt the company, which it says has only $1 billion in cash.

The ultimatum comes after the Moscow Arbitration Court on 28 June upheld a demand by the Tax Ministry for Yukos to pay the taxes, allegedly avoided through illegal tax havens and other schemes.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in June that the government will do all it can to avoid causing the collapse of Yukos.

Critics see the attack on Yukos as a Kremlin-directed move to punish its former chief Mikhail Khodorkovskii for supporting opposition political activiites. Khodorkovskii was arrested in October and faces charges of fraud and tax evasion.