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Russian-born American heads YUKOS
( 2003-11-04 17:21) (Agencies)

A Russian-born American will replace Mikhail Khodorkovsky as the new chief executive of embattled oil giant YUKOS, the company said Tuesday.

Simon Kukes, who emigrated from the Soviet Union to the United States in the 1970s, joined YUKOS this year from Russia's third-largest oil producer TNK, where he was president.

Khodorkovsky, at the center of a confrontation between the Kremlin and big business, resigned from the embattled Russian oil giant Monday after he was jailed in Moscow a week ago on $1 billion fraud and tax evasion charges.

"As the leader of this company, I must do my utmost to lead our working team out from under the attack which has been directed against me and my partners," Khodorkovsky said in a statement Monday.

"I am leaving the company. I am sure that a highly professional and close team of experienced managers with the support of the board will successfully cope with the task of globalization of YUKOSSibneft's business," the statement said.

Khodorkovsky said he would continue to work as chairman of the board of the non-governmental organization he founded, Open Russia, which deals with the education of young people. The organization is one of several Khodorkovsky funds that deals with building civil society.

Khodorkovsky is Russia's richest man, with an estimated wealth of $8 billion.

YUKOS shares fell dramatically following Khodorkovsky's arrest, pulling the broader Russian stock market down with it. Its shares rose 3.9 percent in Moscow trading immediately after Khodorkovsky's announcement, ending the day up 12 percent at $12.65.

Fresh criticism of Russian prosecutors' actions in the YUKOS case has been voiced, as President Vladimir Putin's new chief of staff warned that the overzealousness of some officials can be dangerous.

Dmitri Medvedev, in an interview with Russia's Rossiya television Sunday, questioned the impounding of a large portion of the shares in YUKOS Oil Company, which prosecutors claim belong to Khodorkovsky.

"How effective legally, for instance, was the arrest of shares in YUKOS? The shares belong to offshore companies and they are supposed to ensure that damages are paid," Medvedev said.

"The legal effectiveness of such measures is not obvious. Our colleagues should think through the economic consequences of their decisions."

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