Everyone equal before law, Putin says

In connection with the Yukos case Vladimir Putin announced that everyone was equal before the law.

"Everyone should be equal in the eyes of the law," he emphasised. "Otherwise we will never solve the problem of creating an economically efficient and socially adjusted tax system," the Russian President said on Monday, when speaking at the traditional Kremlin session with the government.

The President proceeds from the assumption that the court had grounds to arrest head of the Yukos oil company Mikhail Khodorkovsky, he said.

"Only a court can imprison a person, even for preliminary investigation. If this was done in this exact case, I believe that the court had grounds for this," Putin pointed out.

"Incidentally, whether a person is guilty or not should be proved by those who think so," he pointed out.

"Eventually the decision on the issue [whether a person is guilty or not] may be taken only by the court," Putin said. "In it [court], as well as in the eyes of the law, all people should be equal, a modest clerk and a state official, even of the highest rank, as in the well known case of the former federal minister, an ordinary citizen, an average entrepreneur, and an influential businessman regardless of how many billion dollars he has on his personal or corporate accounts," the President emphasized.

He has rejected the proposal of the RSPP (the Union of Russian Industrialists and Businessmen) leadership and some political figures to discuss the Yukos case.

"Meetings with representatives of political parties, heads of employers' unions, trade unions' associations, with individual entrepreneurs are held regularly and systematically, they are necessary, useful and we will continue to arrange them in future", the President said.

"However, there will be no meetings and no bargaining over the work of law-enforcers, provided they acted within the Russian law, of course," he emphasized.

"We have a lot of work to do to improve the activities of the judicial sphere, but Russia has already adopted a democratic and judicially adjusted system of making decisions in the criminal process sphere," the Russian leader pointed out.

"Neither the executive bodies of power nor the prosecutor's office can imprison a person even for preliminary investigation, it is solely the court's prerogative," Putin emphasized.

He demanded an end to "hysteria and speculations" over the Yukos case and warned the cabinet against getting involved in discussions on this matter.

"No conclusions, comparisons and precedents, particularly those that can trigger the revision of privatisation results, should not be sought. I would, therefore, ask to end hysteria and speculations over the matter. And I request the cabinet not to get engaged in related discussions," the President said.

He spoke in favour of creating a special anti-corruption system in Russia.

"Some countries have set up systems to fight against corruption. I believe it expedient to do the same in this country," Putin announced.

"I request the government to work out corresponding proposals within two weeks and will give the necessary instructions to the President's administration," he said.

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