Lawyer: Court cancels earlier decision to reconsider privatization of Ukraine steel mill

A Kiev court canceled its earlier decision to reconsider a complaint about the legality of last year's privatization of Ukraine's largest steel mill, a lawyer for the owners said Friday.

The ruling by Kiev's Pechersky Court, which came late Thursday, represents a significant victory for the current owners of the Kryvorozhstal steel mill, said lawyer Serhiy Vlasenko.

The Pechersky Court refused comment.

But the consortium, which bought the mill at an allegedly rock-bottom price, still faces a government lawsuit aimed at canceling what had become one of this ex-Soviet republic's most disputed privatization deals.

Kryvorozhstal, the country's most profitable mill, was sold to the son-in-law of former President Leonid Kuchma and another tycoon for US$800 million (Ђ665 million). The sale went through despite reportedly higher offers from major steel bidders in the United States and Russia and sparked outrage in Ukraine and abroad.

New President Viktor Yushchenko has called the mill's sale a theft, and pledged that his government would return it to the state "at any cost."

In February, the Pechersky Court agreed to reconsider a lawsuit filed by a small group that included lawmakers challenging the privatization. On Thursday, however, the court canceled its earlier ruling "based on newly revealed developments," said Vlasenko.

A separate lawsuit by the Prosecutor General's Office to have ownership of the mill returned to the state is currently before Kiev's Economic Court.


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