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Russia Defies European Court Over Former Yukos Exec Pichugin

Aleksei Pichugin, the former security chief of the Yukos oil company, seen here in 2007. (file photo)
MOSCOW -- Russia's Supreme Court has upheld the life sentence of Aleksei Pichugin, the imprisoned former head of security for the now-defunct Yukos oil company, defying a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

The Supreme Court ruled on October 23 that the life sentence for Pichugin, who was convicted of organizing several murders, was lawful. Pichugin has insisted he is innocent.

The court refused to amend the sentence despite a judgment by the ECHR last October that Pichugin's rights to liberty and security and his right to a fair trial had been violated.

The European court ordered Russia to pay him 9,500 euros ($13,000) in compensation.

Pichugin was sentenced in 2005 to 20 years in prison and to life imprisonment in a separate case in 2007. In March, the ECHR said its ruling was final and rejected a Russian request to revise it.

Pichugin's lawyer, Kseniya Kostromina, told RFE/RL she was surprised by the Supreme Court ruling.

"I am still considering our further steps," she said. "Actually, to be honest, I was not expecting such ruling from the Supreme Court. I was really hoping they would revoke the sentence."

Yukos was once Russia's largest company. It was dismantled after the 2003 arrest of CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was later convicted and imprisoned on charges of fraud, tax evasion, and embezzlement in a case his supporters say was aimed at thwarting his political ambitions.

With reporting from RAPSI and Interfax