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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Charges Dropped Against Yukos' Aleksanyan

VedomostiFormer Yukos vice president Vasily Aleksanyan attending an earlier hearing. He wore a medical mask Thursday.

Vasily Aleksanyan, the gravely ill former Yukos vice president, will leave Russia for treatment abroad after a Moscow court on Thursday dropped charges against him following the expiration of their statute of limitations last month.

Aleksanyan, diagnosed with lymphatic cancer, tuberculosis and AIDS, unexpectedly attended Thursday's hearing to personally inform the judge that he did oppose the closing of the criminal case against him without his acquittal.

He wore a medical mask in court and left before the hearing was over.

The prosecutor in the case, Nikolai Vlasov, had no objections, and Simonosvky District Court judge Olga Nedelina announced on Thursday evening that the charges of embezzlement and tax evasion had been dropped, Interfax reported.

The judge also dropped two civil lawsuits against Aleksanyan worth 11 million rubles ($353,800), filed by Tomskneft and the Federal Property Management Agency.

Aleksanyan told journalists after leaving the courtroom that it had been difficult for him to come, Interfax reported. Answering a question about his health, he said only, "Still alive."

The lack of an acquittal means that Aleksanyan cannot demand compensation for his four years of legal troubles.

But he is free and plans to leave Russia for medical treatment, his lawyer Gevorg Dangyan said.

"Now that the restrictions have been withdrawn, he can seek treatment abroad. He has received an invitation already," Danyan said after the hearing.

"This doesn't mean that he pleads guilty," he added.

Aleksanyan's trial was suspended soon after its start in February 2008 because of his health. Facing enormous international pressure, the court in August 2008 ordered Aleksanyan's release on bail of 50 million rubles ($1.6 million), which was collected through private donations because Aleksanyan's property had been seized by prosecutors. He was freed only in December 2008.

The bail will be returned to Aleksanyan.

Aleksanyan, a graduate of Moscow State University and Harvard Law School, was head of the legal department of Yukos, once Russia's biggest oil company whose former CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky is now serving an eight-year sentence on fraud and tax evasion charges along with his business partner Platon Lebedev.

Khodorkovsky and Lebedev are now on trial in a Moscow court on related charges that could add 22 1/2 years to their sentences. They and their supporters say the cases against them and other Yukos employees like Aleksanyan are politically motivated.

Aleksanyan was arrested in April 2006 and diagnosed with HIV in September that year. At the time, he accused the authorities of denying him treatment because he had refused to testify against his former Yukos employers.

The court spent the last 18 months considering whether Aleksanyan could be forced to attend hearings in his trial.  

His lawyers had to present several statements from doctors confirming that visits to public places, including courts, could prove life threatening to him.

A similar case saw another Yukos lawyer, Svetlana Bakhmina, a mother of two, detained and sentenced to prison. Bakhmina was paroled last year after spending more than four years in prison and giving birth to a third child.