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US remarks anger Russia
- State department criticism of Yukos crisis draws Moscow ire

Moscow, Nov. 1 (Reuters): Russia hit back today at US criticism of prosecutors’ handling of a legal case against oil giant Yukos, calling the state department’s remarks “disrespectful”.

“This statement is a continuation of a notorious policy of double standards,” foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko told First Channel television. “It is, at the very least, tactless and disrespectful towards Russia.”

State department spokesman Richard Boucher said yesterday that the Kremlin sould act to dispel concerns that the arrest of the boss of Yukos, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, last weekend was not politically motivated.

“They need to ensure that it’s judged fairly and with full regard for due process of law applied in a non-selective fashion,” he said.

“There’s always the issue (in) a case like this as to whether it’s a single event or whether it has some sweeping inmplication for the rule of law in Russia.”

Russian authorities have seized control of a large shareholding in Yukos pending further investigation of the company and of Khodorkovsky, Russia’s reichest man, who is accused of fraud.

PM under threat

Speculation grew today that Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, the only major political survivor of the era before President Vladimir Putin, would be the next casualty of the crisis surrounding the Yukos oil company.

Kasyanov said yesterday he was concerned by the arrest of Yukos boss Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia’s richest man, on massive fraud charges in a clear challenge to Putin, who has said the case must be left to the prosecutors. “There can be only one explanation for this: Kasyanov is being prepared for his removal or already knows about it,” said the popular daily Komsomolskaya Pravda.

Khodorkovsky was arrested at gunpoint a week ago. Since then prosecutors have frozen a major stake in Yukos, the company's shares have lost more than 20 per cent, and Putin has faced the biggest political and economic crisis of his career.

The crisis has already claimed a major political scalp in Kremlin chief of staff Alexander Voloshin — seen as close to business and another survivor from politics in the 1990s, when well-connected businessmen like Khodorkovsky made fortunes. “It seems that Kasyanov is preparing himself for the end,” an analyst said.

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