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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 November 2007, 15:54 GMT
Liquidation of Yukos is completed
By Steven Eke
Russian affairs analyst, BBC News

Former Yukos site in Siberia
Yukos was once Russia's biggest oil company
Yukos, once Russia's biggest oil company, has now ceased to exist.

A simple entry on Russia's State Companies Register on Thursday marked the company's liquidation.

The final move in the firm's history, it comes four years after its founder and former owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky was arrested on tax evasion charges.

It's been one of the most controversial stories to have emerged from Vladimir Putin's Russia, and is seen by many as a key turning point in his rule.

'Show-trial'

Russia's Federal Tax Service confirmed on Thursday that it had completed Yukos' bankruptcy procedure, and that the company has ceased to exist as a legal entity.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky
Mikhail Khodorkovsky remains behind bars

Its major assets have been transferred to Rosneft, Russia's state oil company, through a series of auctions involving what Mr Khodorkovsky's supporters allege were ghost companies.

The saga has been one of the defining stories of the Putin era.

To the company's defenders, it was a process of expropriation, part of an unannounced policy of re-nationalisation of the oil industry.

The Yukos story was also deeply personal, with the treatment of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, which his lawyers said at times resembled a show-trial, drawing a chorus of criticism from human rights activists in Russia and abroad.

Their argument remains that Mr Khodorkovsky was punished for openly pledging to finance the Russian liberal opposition and civil society.

This is strongly denied by the Russian leadership, who allege Mr Khodorkovsky and the other oligarchs effectively robbed Russia during the 1990s.

However, Russian justice appears to have been selective, with the oligarchs who either kept out of politics, or who chose to support Vladimir Putin, left alone.

Legal moves

Both Mr Khodorkovsky and his business partner, Platon Lebedev, remain in a Siberian prison camp.

Elsewhere, the legal wrangling continues.

Over recent weeks, the European Court of Human Rights has ordered Russia to pay Mr Lebedev compensation for illegal detention.

And a court in the Netherlands ruled that the sale of Yukos' foreign assets was illegal, and the result of a politically motivated process.

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