European human rights court orders Russia to pay another $2.5 bln to other Yukos shareholders

PARIS – The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday ordered Russia to pay out another 1.9 billion euros ($2.5 billion) to a group of shareholders of Yukos, the oil company the government dismantled over a decade ago.

The decision follows a ruling Monday by an international court ordering Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government to pay a colossal $50 billion to the former majority shareholder in Yukos. Thursday’s ruling covers shareholders who were not party to that claim.

Yukos had been owned by tycoon Mikhail Mikhail Khodorkovsky, an opponent of Putin who had begun using his wealth to fund opposition parties. Khodorkovsky was arrested and pardoned only last December, after more than a decade in prison.

Thursday’s lawsuit involved 55,000 former shareholders who sought a combined $37.9 billion. The group includes $6 billion in investments by U.S. pension funds and other institutions.

Though the damages awarded fell far short of the amount sought, the ruling was one more blow to Russia which has just been hit with a second, tougher round of U.S. and European sanctions for its support of rebels in eastern Ukraine.

The court said Russia must produce a plan to distribute the funds within six months.

The decision was the second verdict by the Strasbourg-based human rights court in the Yukos case. In 2011, it had ruled that Russia violated three articles of the European Convention on Human Rights, including the right to a fair trial. The court also found the enforcement proceedings were disproportionate.

The court, however, denied any allegation that Russia misused legal procedures to dismantle Yukos.

The case turned on tax and enforcement proceedings Russia used against Yukos, leading to its liquidation in 2007.