Thousands of miles (kilometers) from the Siberian jail where its founder is imprisoned, representatives of the ruined Russian oil giant Yukos and the Russian government will meet face to face for the first time at the European Court of Human Rights this week as the dismantled company seeks to prove that its rights were violated.
Fearful it would never get a fair day in a Russian court, Yukos representatives filed a complaint with the European court on April 24, 2004 on the ground that it was "targeted by the Russian authorities with tax and enforcement proceedings, which eventually led to its liquidation."
Six years later, Thursday's hearing is a milestone in Yukos' efforts to win acknowledgment that the Russian government's actions were "unlawful, disproportionate, arbitrary and discriminatory, and amounted to disguised expropriation" of the company. Russian authorities had accused Yukos of shady deals and shell companies used to hide revenue from tax authorities.
Russian authorities began pursuing Yukos in 2002 on allegations of tax fraud. Through the courts, they ultimately froze its assets, forced it to sell its shares in other companies and declared it insolvent in 2006 before the company was finally liquidated a year later.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former oligarch who founded the company in the chaotic years that followed the Soviet collapse, was convicted on charges of fraud and tax evasion and has been imprisoned since 2003.
Yukos would not give up the fight, however, and representatives of the company's entities that managed to survive kept pressing the complaint they filed with the European court, which was set up in Strasbourg by the Council of Europe Member States in 1959 to deal with alleged violations of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights.