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Rosneft Settles Legal Dispute With Yukos Shareholders

Russian state-owned oil giant Rosneft says it has reached a settlement in a long-running dispute with shareholders of the now-defunct oil firm Yukos.

Rosneft said in an April 1 statement that the two sides had agreed to "withdraw all mutual claims" and "are obliged not to lay claims on each other in the future due to the bankruptcy and dissolution of Yukos."

Yukos -- whose owner, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, spent a decade in prison due to prosecutions widely seen as politically motivated -- was dismantled following Khodorkovsky's 2003 arrest on fraud and tax-evasion charges.

Russian courts subsequently seized and sold off Yukos's assets, most of which ended up in Rosneft's hands.

Rosneft -- which is headed by Igor Sechin, a longtime confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin -- has since faced legal challenges from shareholders in the United States and European courts over the acquisitions.

It said the two sides to had agreed to "withdraw all mutual claims, stop all legal and other disputes, and are obliged not to lay claims on each other in the future due to the bankruptcy and dissolution of Yukos."

"The agreement does not provide for any monetary or other compensation on the part of Rosneft or its subsidiaries," Rosneft added.

Representatives for the Yukos shareholders confirmed that an agreement had been reached, adding it was made after "careful consideration" of the potential duration of future litigation.

"This is not a financial settlement. It provides certainty of ownership of important structures and assets for the Dutch entities run by the former Yukos management," said Claire Davidson, a spokeswoman for the shareholders.

She said the amount of money secured in the agreement exceeded 400 million British pounds ($593 million) and that the deal provided "certainty that there will be no further legal expenses or risk to the structure now [that] its title is secured."

The agreement does not impact recent European court rulings in favor of the shareholders, however.

In July 2014, an international arbitration court in The Hague ordered Russia to pay about $50 billion to former Yukos shareholders, ruling that Russia violated the 1991 international Energy Charter when it shut down the company and auctioned off its main assets in 2004.

Russia's Finance Ministry said there were "serious flaws in the decision of the arbitration court" and called the court's ruling "politicized."

The Russian government has consistently maintained that the case against Khodorkovsky was not politically motivated.

Also in July 2014, the European Court of Human Rights ordered Russia to pay former Yukos shareholders $2.5 billion in compensation after they filed a complaint alleging that Russia unlawfully seized Yukos assets.

Khodorkovsky, who was pardoned by Putin in December 2013, has publicly accused Sechin of engineering his arrest and Yukos's downfall.

Once Russia's richest man, Khodorkovsky currently lives in Switzerland.

During his self-exile, he has advocated for bringing an end to Putin's longtime rule through nonviolent, democratic means.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters
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