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Legal crusader heralds 'complete victory' in Russian courts

Oil Pipeline Amidst Electrical TowersBlogger Alexei Navalny is hailing "complete victory" after a court ruled that he had the right to scrutinise documents from Transneft.

Navalny, who is a small shareholder in the firm, has won the right to study minutes from top board meetings despite the oil giant's claim that his stake is too small.

And Monday's ruling at the Moscow Arbitration Court could pave the way for a raft of similar cases.

'Read what they're hiding'

On his blog Navalny was jubilant.

"This joy is complemented by the fact that we have a similar case with Rosneft," he wrote. "The court accepted our side ­ ie the shareholders, not the management. Thus neither Rosneft nor Transneft can keep fooling us.

"We can read what they are hiding. This is a great victory!"

Rosneft had referred a related case to the Constitutional Court, challenging clauses of the laws governing joint-stock companies.

In particular the energy major had queried four articles which stipulated companies had to provide documents to shareholders, regardless of whether they were confidential or not, gzt.ru reported.

The case

Navalny had called for minutes to be handed over from meetings of the Transneft's board of directors in 2009, and from Jan. 1 to Aug. 12 2010.

His case was filed on Dec. 27 last year, and the court dismissed an attempt to suspend proceedings.

Earlier in 2010 he published a dossier alleging a $4 billion fraud at Transneft, relating to inflated prices for pipelines, and it is thought that some of the details of these meetings might support his claims about the company.

Meanwhile, after Monday's decision legal experts say that any minority shareholder can now make a similar request and expect the courts to back them.

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