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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Court Will Mull Letting Lebedev Go

A Moscow court was expected to rule Thursday that key Yukos shareholder Platon Lebedev must stay in jail, lengthening the stand-off between the oil firm and the government, analysts said.

Platon Lebedev is not expected to be released, according to legal experts, after the Prosecutor General's Office said last week that his lawyers would need time to study documents it had compiled over the course of its investigation.

Lebedev was detained July 2 on charges of state property theft stemming from the 1994 privatization of a fertilizer firm, but the decision to throw him in jail is widely seen to be more closely linked to Yukos chief executive officer Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his thinly disguised political ambitions.

To bring matters to a head the prosecutor general must start a trial, but no date is yet set and under the law the prosecutor general can continue indefinitely to renew Lebedev's detention every two months.

Traders said they expected Yukos shares to decline if the court decided not to release Lebedev.

But they also said that the drop would not be deep because the news would not change the current stand-off.

"The reaction will not be strong. The news does not heavily affect the company's operation or the mood of people who are trading the stock," NIKoil head of trading Andrei Kukk said.

The scandal surrounding Yukos initially led to a sharp decline in the oil giant's share price and rattled investors who had been enjoying a rare period of political calm and post-Soviet growth.

But Yukos, which is to acquire its smaller rival Sibneft by the end of 2003 to become the country's largest oil firm, countered the bad news with positive statements about progress in the merger, spurring investors to push its stock up to an all-time high of $15 last week.

Yukos shares closed 0.79 percent down at $13.89 on Wednesday evening.