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Russian Seeks to Reassure Investors

July 10, 2003

MOSCOW (AP) _ Russia’s economy minister on Thursday sought to reassure investors jittery over recent investigations into the country’s biggest oil company, saying the government had no intention of reversing the controversial privatization deals of the 1990s.

``The government’s position has not changed: The results of privatization will not be revisited,″ economic development and trade minister German Gref told reporters.

``In any case, I don’t think privatization will be revisited under the current team serving under the president.″

Gref spoke in response to questions about investigations into shareholders of the Yukos oil company. Last week, Yukos shareholder Platon Lebedev was arrested in connection with accusations of fraud during the 1994 government sale of a fertilizer plant.

On Tuesday, the Prosecutor General’s Office opened an investigation into Yukos’ acquisition of a stake in the Yeniseineftegaz, an energy firm with licenses to develop potentially lucrative oil fields in Siberia. On Wednesday, the prosecutors pledged to investigate allegations of tax evasion by Yukos.

Opposition politicians and analysts say the probes into Yukos are politically motivated and a warning to powerful Russian businessmen to keep out of politics.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, chief executive of Yukos and one of the country’s richest men, has supported a number of opposition parties.

Meanwhile, Lebedev’s company, Menatep, protested his arrest as ``illegal and unfounded″ and said he had been denied access to a lawyer for six days, according to the Interfax news agency.

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