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Belgium to unblock frozen Russian diplomatic accounts: foreign minister

Published on 20/06/2015

Belgium will unblock Russian embassy accounts that had been frozen over legal claims by shareholders of former oil company Yukos, the EU country's foreign minister said Saturday, after Moscow vowed retaliation.

“A solution has been found to unblock as a priority accounts for the running of the embassies, and the rest will follow,” a ministry spokesman told AFP, quoting Foreign Minister Didier Reynders.

Accounts held at ING Bank by Russia’s embassy to Belgium as well as the country’s embassies to the European Union and NATO are among those to be unfrozen first, said the spokesman Henrik Van de Velde.

Moscow had threatened Friday to retaliate against state-linked foreign firms operating in Russia after its official assets were frozen, with President Vladimir Putin saying “we will defend our interests”.

Representatives of claimants from Yukos said Russian assets were also blocked in France.

The former shareholders are trying to collect some of the record $50 billion (44 billion euros) in compensation awarded to them by an arbitration court in The Hague last year for the way Russia seized and dismantled the company after arresting Yukos owner and prominent Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky in 2003.

As Russian authorities had ignored the court order, shareholders managed to get Russia’s state assets in Belgium and France frozen as compensation.