KIEV, April 22 A Ukrainian court has seized an
oil refinery in Odessa, the country's third largest, the
Ukrainian Interior Ministry said on Tuesday.
It cited an investigation into fuel duty fraud but gave few
details. The plant has also been at risk of being drawn into the
bitter confrontation between Ukraine and Russia.
Ownership of the refinery is in question after a report it
had been acquired by a Russian bank and the Ukrainian government
which took power following the overthrow of the Kremlin-backed
president in February has said it wants control of the refinery.
The Interior Ministry said in a statement that unnamed
companies evaded import duties and taxes by fraudulently
claiming to have re-exported fuel that was in fact sold on the
"Investigators impounded more than 75,000 tonnes of fuel to
reimburse losses. In addition, the court decided to arrest
property and land of the Odessa Oil Refinery," the ministry
said, adding the order would take effect on April 24.
The ministry did not say which court issued the ruling and
gave no more details.
Ukrainian energy firm Vetek bought the refinery from Lukoil
of Russia last year. But Russian newspaper Kommersant
said last month that Vetek transferred the plant to Russian
state-controlled bank VTB after failing to repay a loan used to
buy the plant.
Vetek and VTB have declined to comment on the report.
Last month, the new interior minister, Arsen Avakov, said
that the government which took over from ousted president Viktor
Yanukovich wanted to regain control of the Odessa refinery,
which was privatised some years ago.
Ukraine's prosecutor general last month issued an arrest
warrant for Vetek chairman Serhiy Kurchenko in a separate case
on suspicion of stealing state property. Kurchenko's whereabouts
Prosecutors said the business activities of Kurchenko, whose
industrial empire grew rapidly under Yanukovich, had inflicted
over $100 million of damage to Ukraine's national interests.
Ukraine operates seven large oil and gas refineries but only
two them are processing oil on regular basis. The Odessa
refinery on the Black Sea, with a capacity of 70,000 barrels per
day, suspended its oil processing in late February.
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Alastair Macdonald and