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Moscow threatens Belgium with 'reciprocal measures' over assets freeze

Russian President Putin has said that Moscow will "defend" its interests after Belgium and France froze Russian assets. The move comes after a court awarded claimants a record $50 billion over defunct oil company Yukos.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that his country would hit back at Belgium and French assets after the West European countries

froze assets linked to Moscow on Thursday

.

"There will be a reaction, we will defend our interests. As for this case, our position is clear. In these issues, the Hague Tribunal can only apply its authority to those countries which signed and ratified the European Energy Charter," Putin said, according to state-owned Sputnik news agency.

Chodorkowski Prozess 2004

Khodorkovsky (center) was a critic of the Kremlin

"Russia has not ratified it, that is why we do not recognize the jurisdiction of this court," Putin added.

In 2014, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague ordered

Russia to pay $50 million (44 billion euros)

after ruling that Moscow forced the Russian oil company Yukos, headed by Putin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, into bankruptcy in 2006.

Khodorkovsky, the former Yukos CEO, was arrested in 2003 for tax evasion, although it was widely believed to be a retaliatory measure for his political ambitions and criticism of the Kremlin. After spending 10 years in prison, Khodorkovsky was released in 2013 following a presidential pardon.

Diplomatic row?

Russia's Foreign Ministry confirmed on Thursday that the freeze targeted its assets in both countries.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov echoed Putin's statements on a targeted response.

"I hope that common sense will prevail so that an analogous situation for the Belgian embassy in Russia will not need to be made," Lavrov said on Friday, RIA Novosti news agency reported.

Following the incident, Moscow summoned the Belgian ambassador and threatened "reciprocal measures targeting Belgian assets in Russia."

ls/cmk (AP, AFP, dpa)

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