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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yukos Tax Going to Housing, Research

The State Duma on Wednesday passed in a first reading a bill that would allow the government to pump billions of dollars from the sale of Yukos assets into housing and high-tech research.

The bill's critics, however, described it as a populist attempt to show that the Kremlin's drive to bankrupt the country's former leading oil producer was for the public good.

The bill -- passed after just a couple minutes' debate -- would amend the federal budget to allow the government to soak up and spend the entire tax arrears of the oil company, which are in excess of 400 billion rubles ($15.5 billion). The bill would force regional budgets to fork over the money to federal coffers.

Presenting the bill to the Duma, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said the regions with Yukos oil fields would not have seen the tax revenues anyway. Instead, most of this money would have gone to Moscow, where Yukos trading companies were registered.

The bill is expected to pass in second and third readings Friday, Interfax reported.

The diverted revenue will go toward the creation of the Russian Nanotechnology Corporation and the Housing Reform Fund, helping causes championed by President Vladimir Putin in his state-of-the-nation address last month, Kudrin said.

"This money will go toward some of the most important strategic goals of our economy," Kudrin said.

In his address, Putin ordered the government to allocate 250 billion rubles ($10 billion) to the housing fund, which will provide new homes for people living in crumbling buildings or repair these buildings, and 130 billion rubles ($5.5 billion) to the nanotechnology corporation, which aims to put the country at the forefront of research in this field.

First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev will oversee the housing fund, while First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov will oversee the nanotechnology corporation.

Communist Duma Deputy Alexei Kondaurov, a former KGB general and security consultant to Yukos, said the proceeds from the auctions were being linked to the projects in an effort to justify the state's onslaught against Yukos.

"It's all to confirm that everything that was done against Yukos was right," he said by telephone. "To me, it looks like cheap politicking."

Claire Davidson, a spokeswoman for Yukos' former managers, defended Yukos' record on social spending and scientific research. The company was good at providing housing for its employees and in 2003 opened a research center, whose research topics included nanotechnology, she said.