26 January 2005 -- The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) released a report today that said the arrest of leading Yukos oil executives was an attempt by authorities in Russia to silence political opponents.
The report said the arrest of Yukos chief executive officer Mikhail Khodorkovskii and two other company officials was designed to "weaken an outspoken political opponent, intimidate other wealthy individuals, and regain control of strategic economic assets."
Khodorkovskii is accused of fraud and tax evasion and his company Yukos has been ordered to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in back taxes.
A PACE member and author of the report said the arrest of the Yukos executives suggested they were "arbitrarily singled out."
"The prosecutions of Mikhail Khodorkovskii and two other former Yukos executives, Mr. Lebedev and Mr. Pichugin, went beyond the mere pursuit of justice, to include such elements as to weaken outspoken political opponents, intimidate other wealthy individuals and regain control of strategic economic assets," said German lawmaker Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger.
Russian Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov responded to the criticism, calling it "illegitimate" and saying his office acted in line with Russian law.