Yukos verdict to hurt investor sentiment: Kremlin aide

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The new jail term handed to imprisoned Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky will prompt investors to increase their assessment of the risks of working in Russia, a top Kremlin aide said on Wednesday.

In unusually outspoken remarks on the highly sensitive issue, the Kremlin's top economic advisor Arkady Dvorkovich said the case would be a major topic when President Dmitry Medvedev attends the World Economic Forum in Davos.

"I think there will be serious questions from a significant part of the international community and the assessment of the risks of working in Russia will increase," Dvorkovich said in an interview with online newspaper Gazeta.ru.

"As for the losses in image and the attitude of investors, in a week in Davos we will see how all members of the Russian delegation are asked these questions and we will know the attitude of investors."

Medvedev is to deliver a keynote speech at the forum in Switzerland later this month.

A Moscow court on December 30 sentenced the former head of the Yukos oil giant to 14 years in jail after finding him guilty of money laundering and embezzlement after a trial condemned by the West as politically motivated.

He was already serving jail time from a sentence from an earlier trial in 2005. Under the terms of the new verdict, Khodorkovsky will stay in jail until 2017.

His supporters have long alleged the magnate was jailed as a political revenge for daring to finance opposition to strongman Vladimir Putin and the second trial rattled investors as proof of the perils of business in Russia.

Seeking to emphasise the independence of the judiciary, Dvorkovich noted that the court's decision was not final.

"It's clear that all procedures have not been exhausted, there will be appeals and examinations in different courts. To say that the trial is completely over is wrong."

The controversy surrounding Khodorkovsky and the now defunct Yukos was highlighted again this week when energy giant BP signed a huge Arctic exploration deal with Russia's largest oil firm, state-controlled Rosneft.

Rosneft was able to climb to its dominant position by acquiring major assets of the broken-up Yukos in controversial auctions organised by the state.

© 2011 AFP

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