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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Swiss Release Funds Linked to Yukos

APAmsterdam, left, and Khodorkovsky's Swiss lawyer Philippe Neyroud speaking to reporters in Geneva on Friday.
GENEVA -- Swiss judicial authorities said Friday that they had lifted a freeze on all funds related to bankrupt oil firm Yukos, worth some 200 million to 300 million Swiss francs ($165 million to $250 million).

The move follows a ruling Thursday by Switzerland's highest court blocking a Swiss government bid to give Russia documents linked to bank accounts held by former Yukos owners, including Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, and several companies.

The landmark ruling by the Lausanne-based Federal Tribunal, or Supreme Court, halted Swiss cooperation with Russia in a criminal case that the five judges said seemed aimed at ousting "political rivals."

"I can confirm we have lifted the freeze on the 200 million to 300 million Swiss francs frozen in Swiss banks," Maria Schnebli, a federal prosecutor in the Swiss attorney general's office, said from Berne. "That is the end of it."

The freeze had been lifted on all Swiss accounts linked to Yukos, not just those covered by the ruling, she said, adding, "The Supreme Court ... said that mutual legal assistance cannot be given to Russia in this case."

The Swiss ruling concluded "that the [Russian] penal procedure in the case at hand is being maneuvered by the powers that be with the intention to rein in the class of rich oligarchs and sideline potential or declared political adversaries."

Lawyers for Khodorkovsky and Lebedev welcomed the decision, saying it was the first time the top Swiss court had invoked political persecution and human rights violations as grounds for not helping foreign authorities to pursue a criminal matter.

"What is striking about the decision is that the Swiss federal court has made it blatantly obvious that the Russian Federation in the Yukos case is not complicit with international law," Robert Amsterdam, a lawyer for Khodorkovsky, said at a news conference in Geneva.