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Russia crafts loophole around European Court of Human Rights

President Vladimir Putin has signed a law allowing Russia's Constitutional Court to ignore rulings of international courts. The legislation follows a $2 billion judgment by the European Court of Human Rights.

The new law, published Tuesday on the government website, enables Russia's top court to overturn decisions of the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) if it deems them unconstitutional.

The timing is crucial. In 2014 the ECHR,

ruled in 2014 that Russia must pay a 1.9 billion euro ($2.09 billion) award

to shareholders of the Yukos oil company, which the Kremlin seized in 2003.

Judgments order billions to be paid over Yukos

Russland Michail Chodorkowski

Yukos's former chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky spent a decade in prison. International courts ordered billions paid to shareholders.

The ECHR said it had received 218 complaints against Russia in 2014 and that it had found 122 cases in which Moscow had violated the European Convention on Human Rights. Russia signed up to the convention in 1998.

But Valery Zorkin, the head of Russian Constitutional Court, said Monday that Russia could take action if it disagreed with a ruling.

"I don't see any problem there, I think that people are worrying for nothing," Zorkin said.

The new law could damage Russia's credibility in signing up to international agreements. But it will almost certainly relieve some financial pressure on Moscow as it struggles to deal with falling oil prices and punitive Western sanctions over the situation in Ukraine.

jar/rc (Reuters, dpa)

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