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Russian Prime Minister Criticizes Yukos Tax Probe

Moscow, 12 January 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov today criticized the country's Tax Ministry for claiming billions of dollars in back taxes from oil giant Yukos.

Kasyanov told the "Vedomosti" business daily that Yukos used loopholes in the Tax Code to its benefit, and that the Tax Ministry should not be able to declare the company's actions illegal retroactively. He said the ministry should instead have acted faster to improve the legislation.

The former head of Yukos, Mikhail Khodorkovskii, was arrested in October on fraud and embezzlement charges, and the company has been under investigation since June. Kasyanov, who has ties to business, has repeatedly criticized authorities' actions against Khodorkovskii and his company.