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Last Updated: Monday, 14 January 2008, 18:10 GMT
Russian accounts frozen in France
Russian Sukhoi Su-30 jet (file pic)
An Su-30 jet was nearly seized at Le Bourget air show in 2001
Russian state bank accounts held in France have been frozen following pressure from a Swiss firm that is suing Russia for unpaid debts.

Russia's VTB Bank said several accounts held at its French arm had been frozen in line with a court ruling in Paris.

The accounts reportedly belong to the Russian finance ministry, arms firm Rosoboronexport, the Russian Central Bank and the RIA Novosti news agency.

The Swiss firm Noga has long been battling to seize Russian state assets.

Noga says a judgement at the Stockholm International Court of Arbitration 11 years ago gives it leave to have Russian state property impounded to recover debts related to an oil-for-food deal with Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

At the time, the Swiss trading firm's claims were worth $63m.

It previously tried to impound Russian military aircraft at France's Le Bourget air show in 2001 and paintings from Moscow's Pushkin Museum that were exhibited in Switzerland in 2005.

Russia to appeal

Amid concerns that Noga might try to impound a major Russian art exhibition in London this month, the British government rushed through legal changes to protect the artworks.

Russia's finance ministry says it will appeal against the French court's ruling and will seek compensation for the freezing of the accounts.

Russia's Prosecutor-General Yuri Chaika also says he is investigating the case.

Noga's oil-for-food deal with the Russian authorities dates back to April 1991.

In 2000 a Russian sailing ship, Sedov, was temporarily impounded in the French port of Brest, again as a result of the Noga lawsuit.

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