UPDATE 1-Russian court acquits tycoon assassination suspects

(Adds Chubais statement, background)

MOSCOW, June 5 (Reuters) - A Russian jury on Thursday acquitted three men charged with a 2005 assassination attempt on Anatoly Chubais, a business executive and architect of Russia’s post-Soviet market reforms.

A convoy carrying Chubais, chief executive of Soviet-era electricity monopoly Unified Energy System (UES) EESR.MM, was the target of a roadside bomb blast and automatic gunfire on March 17, 2005. Chubais was unharmed.

A majority of the jurors decided the defendants were not involved in the attack, defence lawyer Vyacheslav Lebedev told reporters. The three men -- Vladimir Kvachkov, Robert Yashin and Aleksandr Naidenov -- walked free from the courtroom.

In a statement released after the verdict, Chubais said he had no doubt the men were guilty and called the jury’s decision “a mistake”.

“I know that along with other politicians, government and private figures, rights defenders and journalists, I am included on the so-called assassination list of ‘enemies of the people’,” Chubais said.

Kvachkov told journalists: “Trial by jury is the only court of law in Russia ... The jury saved us. It is frightening to consider the state of our justice system.”

After the attack, Chubais said he knew who might have carried it out. He refused to name publicly those who wanted him dead, but promised to cooperate with investigators.

Police traced a green Saab seen by witnesses on the day of the attack to Kvachkov, a former Russian special forces veteran and explosives expert, and linked him and others to the attack.

Kvachkov refused to testify, but in written answers to questions put to him by the Izvestia daily newspaper at the time, he said he was innocent, although he did admit making a stop near the scene on the day of the attack.

“Kvachkov and those who support him hate me and wish for my death,” Chubais said.

There was widespread speculation at the time that the attack was connected to Chubais’ drive to reform UES by introducing market competition to the world’s fourth-largest power network.

Serving in the government of the late President Boris Yeltsin, Chubais in 1995 became known as post-Soviet Russia’s privatisations tsar, presiding over a so-called loans-for-shares scheme.

Under the programme, state property was sold cheaply to well-connected businessmen, who would become the oligarchs who embodied the vast gulf between Russia’s poor and super-rich.

The perception that Chubais masterminded the sell-off won him the scorn of millions of his countrymen.