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Russian police probing five murder-related cases involving Yukos: prosecutor
July 18, 2003

Russian police are conducting five distinct inquiries into murder or attempted murder cases connected directly or indirectly with oil giant Yukos, Interfax news agency quoted the state prosecutor's office as saying on Friday.

"The common denominator in the five cases is the presence of conflict between the private or public structures headed by the victims and the oil company Yukos," Interfax also quoted a legal source as saying.

The five inquiries are in addition to two probes relating to fraud and tax evasion announced in recent weeks, the prosecutor's office said.

Yukos security chief Alexei Pechugin was charged last month with organising a murder and an attempted murder in 1998. Prosecutors did not specify the precise link between Yukos and the other murder cases.

All the victims were either local officials or involved in the oil industry.

Yukos, Russia's second largest oil company, headed by multibillionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky, has been at the centre of a series of investigations widely seen an attempt by Kremlin to intimidate business leaders who support opposition political parties.

The probes, which have also targeted the heads of the Sibneft oil company and the RusAl aluminium group, come in the run-up to a general election due in December.

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