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Economist says tycoon verdict will harm Russia's business climate

Mikhail KhodorkovskyMoscow, 30 December: The verdict handed down to the former head of Yukos, Mikhail Khodorkovskiy, is unjust and will have a negative effect on the development of entrepreneurship in Russia, as well as on bringing foreign investment into the country, Yevgeniy Gontmakher, member of the board of the Institute of Contemporary Development, thinks. (The institute's board of trustees is chaired by Dmitriy Medvedev)

"This is unjust, and the judge, in my view, showed partiality in considering this case. Therefore, one can only express regret in relation to the court's verdict. I hope that the verdict will be appealed against and considered more objectively," Gontmakher told Interfax on Thursday (30 December).

In the expert's view the court's decision cannot be viewed as independent. "No, it (the court's decision - Interfax) is not independent. To all appearances, the judge fully took the side of the prosecution who were demanding a fourteen-year sentence. All the specialists, lawyers who dealt with this case said that the prosecution case was very weak," said Gontmakher.

"That the judge took the decision proposed by the prosecution means that there was no objective consideration," he said.

In Gontmakher's view, in general the verdict will lead to negative consequences for the development of business climate in Russia, as well as for investment cooperation with foreign countries.

"If one were to talk about the consequences within Russia, a substantial part of our society did not want such guilty verdict at the second trial. Many thought that the sentence Khodorkovskiy got under the first verdict was already sufficient," he said.

"There were letters from representatives of the world of culture who previously had not shown any interest in this case, and this is another negative event for our business. Lately, a lot has been said about softening criminal punishment measures, while in this case the men got the maximum. Of course, this is not a benefit for Russia's business climate," said Gontmakher.

The current situation will lead to foreign investors, who are cautious as it is, becoming even more cautious in regard to their plans concerning Russia, the expert said.

"It is known that capital is leaving the country and the verdict will make the negative trends even worse. Even before it, foreign investors were restrained," Gontmakher said.


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