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Yukos' $22 bln auction due to start

The $22 billion (£11 billion) auction of the assets of the bankrupt oil firm OAO Yukos is due to begin in Russia.

First under the hammer will be a 9.4% stake in the state-controlled oil company OAO Rosneft and debts owed by the former oil production unit of OAO Yukos Oil. The starting price for the assets will be 195.5 billion roubles ($7.5 billion; £3.8 billion). The bidders are expected to include Rosneft itself, as well as the joint venture between Russia's TNK and Britain's BP. Also going under the hammer, will be five Russian oil refineries and 400,000 barrels of daily oil production. The receiver, Eduard Rebgun, values the assets at around $22 billion. Yukos owes the government $26 billion in back taxes. Yukos says the assets are worth more - at least enough to pay off the debts. The company says that the tax claims against it are the Kremlin's revenge for the political activities of its former head Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who is serving an eight-year jail term in Siberia for fraud and tax evasion. Yukos was once Russia's second biggest oil company, pumping one in every five barrels the country produced. In 2004, the back tax bill led to Yukos' main Yuganskneftegaz subsidiary being expropriated by the government and sold off at auction. It was ultimately acquired by the state-owned oil company, Rosneft. (BBC NEWS)