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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 October, 2003, 18:33 GMT
Stability sought after Yukos sell-off
Yukos chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky in court on Saturday
Khodorkovsky's arrest shocked investors
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has called for measures to stabilise Russia's stock markets, as investors continued to take stock of the arrest of the chief of the country's biggest oil company over the weekend.

Shares fell sharply on Monday following the charging of Yukos chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky with a range of offences including stealing $1bn from the state.

On Tuesday, Yukos - trading in which normally makes up about 30% of market turnover - gained closed up 0.4% on the benchmark RTS index, having ended Monday down 15%.

The RTS itself closed up 4.9%, recovering some of the 10% fall it had registered the day before, while the Russian currency made back almost all the half-rouble it had lost on Monday.

"Yesterday the situation was tense, but there is no need to panic," Mr Kasyanov told reporters.

"We must adopt measures to stabilise Russian financial markets."

Warning

Market players themselves were also keen to play down any systemic threat to Russian business that the arrest of Mr Khodorkovsky - often labelled Russia's richest man - might imply.

Moscow's Matrosskaya Tishina prison, where Mr Khodorkovsky is being held
Khodorkovsky remains behind bars
"Khodorkovsky's arrest will clearly not undo Russia's economic recovery," said Moscow-based investment house Renaissance Capital in a research note.

"Large parts of the private sector remain vibrant places to do business in."

But others are still cautious about whether the arrest has wider implications.

Most observers agree that Mr Khodorkovsky's increasing involvement in politics presented a potential threat to President Vladimir Putin and his supporters.

The Yukos chief is backing numerous candidates from multiple political parties in parliamentary elections in December, and Mr Putin himself is up for re-election in March 2004.

Some have argued the arrest may be a warning to Russia's other business barons, that their hold over the proceeds of sweetheart privatisation deals in the early 1990s is contingent on staying out of politics.

A court on Tuesday extended the custody of Platon Lebedev, a major Yukos shareholder arrested in July on charges related to privatisation, until the end of the year.

Yukos is in the process of taking over another oil major, Sibneft, whose controlling shareholder - Roman Abramovich - recently bought the UK's Chelsea Football Club.

Unlike Mr Khodorkovsky, Mr Abramovich is thought to be in the process of backing away from his Russian privatisation spoils, apparently seeking a buyer for a massive aluminium group he bought in the late 1990s.


SEE ALSO:
Analysis: The Yukos puzzle
27 Oct 03  |  Europe
Profile: Mikhail Khodorkovsky
25 Oct 03  |  Business


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