Tag Archives: Yukos

Russia and ESA in money dispute

A money dispute between Russia and France could threaten the ESA/Russian ExoMars partnership, as well as the Arianespace deal that launches Soyuz rockets from French Guiana.

In what appears to be an attempt to force France’s European neighbors to apply pressure to Paris, Roscosmos hinted that multiple cooperative space efforts between Russian and the European Union, and with the European Space Agency (ESA), could suffer if the payments are not freed. The payments, which are not disputed by Arianespace, have been one of the collateral effects of the battle by former shareholders of Russia’s Yukos oil company. In 2014, these shareholders won an initial award of $50 billion from an international arbitration panel in The Hague, Netherlands, against the Russian government for dismantling the company.

Since then, the shareholders have been trying to collect Russian government assets wherever they find a sympathetic legal environment outside Russia, including France and Belgium. In France, different shareholder representatives sought seizure of the Eutelsat and Arianespace payments. The same dispute has blocked payments to other Russian companies. Paris-based satellite operator Eutelsat owes Russia’s biggest satellite operator, Russian Satellite Communications Co. (RSCC) of Moscow, around $300 million for services related to Eutelsat use of RSCC satellites.

Russia needs cash, which is why they need their partnership with Arianespace, which has brought them a lot of cash over time. Their problem is that the money owed the Yukos oil company shareholders has allowed those shareholders to put liens on any Russian earnings in Europe, which has only increased Russia’s financial bind. If Russia can’t get its hands on its Arianespace earnings, then it really makes no sense for them to continue the partnership. Better to threaten to pull out with the hope that the threat will maybe force payment.

Moreover, Russia might also be realizing that it cannot at present afford to participate in ExoMars and is looking for a way to get out of that commitment. This money dispute gives them that out.

French court rules against freezing Russian assets

In a complicated court battle involving multiple courts, multiple nations, multiple companies, and multiple industries (including Roscosmos), a French court has ruled in favor of Russia and against the shareholders of the liquidated Russian Yukos oil company.

The Ivry First Instance Court ruled in favor of Roscosmos in a dispute with Cyprus-based offshore company Veteran Petroleum, a shareholder in the former Yukos oil company, according to Roscosmos. “They have acknowledged that our arguments are correct and that there is no need to seize the money,” Roscosmos representative Igor Burenkov told the TASS news agency.

France has seized Russian assets worth $1 billion in total following the Kremlin’s refusal to pay damages to former Yukos shareholders. The seized assets included $400 million owed by French-based satellite provider Eutelsat to the Russian Satellite Communications company and $300 million owned by French space launch provider Arianespace to Roscosmos.

More details here. The dispute here is not just between Russia and the shareholders of Yukos. There is also a battle going on between the Hague International Arbitration Court and the French courts. Whether Russia will be able get its money however remains unclear at this moment.