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U.S. Judge Refuses Yukos Protection

HOUSTON -- A U.S. federal judge rejected a request by Yukos for a restraining order to protect its remaining assets from seizure by the Russian government while the company appeals the dismissal of its U.S. bankruptcy case.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas said she would not offer Yukos any further protection from the U.S. court system because she believed the oil company would have little success reinstating its bankruptcy case.

"The court has serious concerns about whether this bankruptcy case should properly proceed in this southern district of Texas or, indeed, in the United States at all," Atlas stated. "Yukos has not established a likelihood of success on the merits of its appeal."

Yukos filed for bankruptcy protection in Houston in December, seeking to shield itself from the Russian government, which had seized company assets to satisfy a $28 billion back tax bill.

A federal bankruptcy judge dismissed Yukos' case last month, saying U.S. courts lacked jurisdiction over what is essentially a Russian matter.

Yukos spokesman Mike Lake had no immediate comment on the ruling but previously said the company would appeal the dismissal of its bankruptcy case. The appeal will be decided by Atlas.

"Judge Atlas' decision properly rejected Yukos' last-ditch effort to misuse the U.S. courts to evade its home country's judicial system," said Michael Goldberg, attorney for Gazpromneft, which Yukos sued for allegedly helping the Russian government "expropriate" its Yuganskneftegaz subsidiary.

"Judge Atlas' ruling recognizes that it is improper for the U.S. courts to interfere with the Russian government's efforts to deal with its internal tax disputes," Goldberg said.

(The Moscow Times 21.iii.05)

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