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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Judge Won't Quit Khodorkovsky Trial

ReutersFormer Yukos chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky being led from a prison van to a Moscow court building on Wednesday.
The judge in the second trial of former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky on Wednesday rejected a request by the businessman's lawyers to recuse himself.

Lawyers for Khodorkovsky on Wednesday demanded the removal of Judge Viktor Danilkin, who is presiding over Khodorkovsky's trial on new charges of embezzling more than $25 billion at Moscow's Khamovnichesky District Court.

"The judge noted in his ruling that there are no grounds," for removing himself, said Yelena Liptser, a lawyer for Khodorkovsky's co-defendant, Platon Lebedev, Interfax reported.

Khodorkovsky's lawyers said the move was a "last resort" after the judge had dismissed several of their motions on Tuesday, including demands to change the state prosecutor and remove Khodorkovsky from a glass-walled cage in the courtroom.

"We do not understand why the Khamovnichesky court is the appropriate court to try this case," said Vadim Kluvgant, Khodorkovsky's lead lawyer.

One of the lead prosecutors, Dmitry Shokhin, was also involved in Khodorkovsky's first trial, which ended with the businessman being convicted of fraud and tax evasion and sentenced to eight years in prison. Shokhin subsequently was promoted to the rank of colonel.

Prosecutors accuse Khodorkovsky and Lebedev of embezzling 900 billion rubles ($25 billion) worth of oil and laundering 500 billion rubles.

The two men face new sentences of up to 22 1/2 years in prison if convicted.

Khodorkovsky's lawyers say the new charges are absurd because their client is charged with stealing more oil from Yukos than it produced during the years in question.

They are accused of stealing oil from three Yukos production units from 1998 to 2003. Two of the units, Samaraneftegaz and Tomskneft, have filed lawsuits seeking 170 billion rubles in damages, Tomskneft official Andrei Pyatikopov said Tuesday, Interfax reported.

Samaraneftegaz, however, will probably not press through with the lawsuit because it recovered damages of 77 billion rubles from the sale of Yukos assets in bankruptcy auctions, he said.

Khodorkovsky and his supporters say the charges are politically motivated and are retribution from a Kremlin angered over his political and business ambitions.

He also says corrupt officials wanted to carve up his Yukos business empire, which produced more oil than OPEC member Qatar.(MT, Reuters)