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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Authorities Trying to Block Yukos Meeting, Sources Say

LONDON -- Russian authorities are trying to block a meeting of Yukos' shareholders that could vote to put the troubled oil company into liquidation, sources close to the situation said Wednesday.

Russian authorities put pressure on Yukos' registrar, M-Reestr, last weekend not to assist Yukos in preparing for a Dec. 20 extraordinary general meeting, or EGM, at which shareholders will vote on liquidation or bankruptcy, the sources said.

The Kremlin may be eager to avoid a liquidation process because this would make it harder for the state to take control of Yukos' assets, analysts added.

The government has said it will auction Yukos' main oil production unit, Yugansk, on Dec. 19 at a starting price of almost $9 billion as part of their drive to cover almost $25 billion in back-tax claims.

Yukos' tax troubles are widely seen as part of a campaign against the company's founder, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, for political activities.

Khodorkovsky is now on trial on fraud and tax evasion charges.

The authorities contacted M-Reestr and threatened that it could become harder for the registrar to continue to operate if it helped Yukos distribute documents that must be sent to shareholders in advance of the EGM to give it legal standing.

"They came under some pretext and suggested the registrar should not do that," one source said.

M-Reestr and Yukos declined to offer any comment on the matter, but Yukos spokeswoman Claire Davidson added: "Yukos will do everything in its power to meet the statutory requirements that relate to an EGM."

The Prosecutor General's Office was unavailable for comment.

Shareholders were sent the documentation Tuesday, but Yukos and the registrar are now concerned the authorities could take further action to disrupt voting at the EGM, such as seizing M-Reestr's computers, something court marshals did in July, the sources said.

"The registrar is under great threat. It may be raided once more," the source added.