Russian court rejects $2 bn Yukos compensation ruling

Saint Petersburg (AFP) - Russia's Constitutional Court on Thursday ruled that the Russian state is not obligated to pay $2 billion in damages to the former shareholders of Yukos oil giant, as decided in 2014 by the European Court of Human Rights.

The court decided that it is "impossible to carry out the ruling" which ordered Moscow to compensate shareholders of the now-defunct company, a decade after they first appealed saying Moscow seized control of the company using tax claims.

The Strasbourg-based institution decided on a record award of $2 billion to the 55,000 shareholders of Yukos, which since then was liquidated and its head Mikhail Khodorkovsky sent to jail for a decade on charges he said were the Kremlin's political vendetta.

The Constitutional Court's decision follows another ruling last year which said Russian laws take precedence over its international obligations to the European rights court.

The Russian court said in its ruling that the rights court's decisions "don't overrule the priority of the Russian constitution" which obligates all individuals and firms to pay taxes, something it says Yukos failed to do.

"Therefore... Russia may as an exceptional case refrain from carrying out this ruling."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia will "continue to defend its interests" but that he does not want to comment on a "legal" issue.