A Hague court has ordered Russia to pay $50 billion to a group of shareholders in defunct oil giant Yukos for expropriating its assets. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov says Moscow will most likely appeal. As Joel Flynn reports, the ruling hits Russia as it's facing more international sanctions about its role in Ukraine.
Russia has been caught firing artillery across the border at Ukraine - at least that's according to these images, released by the U.S. on Sunday. It's the latest development in the geopolitical standoff. And it's against this backdrop that an international court in the Hague has ordered Russia to pay 50 billion dollars to shareholders in Yukos, the former oil giant. Emmanuel Gaillard is a lawyer representing the shareholders. SOUNDBITE: Shearman & Sterling LLP's International Arbitration Group Head, Emmanuel Gaillard, saying (English): "The Russian state apparatus launched a full assault on Yukos and its beneficial owners in order to bankrupt Yukos and appropriate its assets, while at the same time removing Mr Khodorkovsky from the political arena. Not my words, those of the tribunal." Yukos - once run by Mikhail Khordorkovsky - was nationalised by Russia over a decade ago, and most of its 40 billion dollars of assets handed to Rosneft. The court on Monday said officials under President Putin had manipulated the legal system to bankrupt the company. 50 billion dollars is about 2.5 percent of Russia's total GDP worth, or 57 percent of its Reserve Fund - earmarked to cover budget holes. Russia has 180 days to start repayments or interest will start to be added, according to a lawyer involved. But the ruling may not bring an end to 10 years of legal proceedings. Sergei Lavrov is Russia's foreign minister. SOUNDBITE: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, saying (Russian): "Court proceedings are not finished yet and an appeal is possible. The Russian side, those agencies which represent Russia in this process, will no doubt use all available legal possibilities to defend its position." The ruling comes as Putin's government await more Western sanctions over Russia's role in Ukraine. They could involve an arms sales embargo and a ban on European investors from buying new debt or shares of banks where the state owns 50 percent or more. Alastair McCaig is a market analyst at IG. SOUNDBITE: IG Market Analyst, Alastair McCaig, saying (English): "I think you see all the major European countries aligned with their thoughts and I think it's considerably more likely that we will see a much more unified picture and comments and calls for sanctions, fines, and the overall attitudes to Russia coming from the euro zone now." Markets in Russia were down on the sanction expectations - and they're not alone. Germany is already feeling the pinch, and wider pain across Europe and on the euro in particular also looks likely to threaten the euro zone's economies, just when they thought things were looking up.