Graham Stack in Berlin -
Vladimir Yevtushenkov, Russia's 15th richest man and owner of Russia's largest mobile telecommunications firm MTS, who was placed under house arrest on September 16, is reported to have been released on September 19, although other reports contradict this.
Shares in AFK Sistema, Yevtushenkov's giant holding company that includes MTS, surged on the news of his release, recovering almost all the ground they lost when is arrest was announced. The recovery in the share price was again halted when other reports claimed he has been banned from leaving the country. Sistema's market capitalisation has lost and regained almost a third of its value in the last few days.
Yevtushenkov was arrested on September 16 on charges of larceny and receipt of stolen good pertaining to Sistema's acquisition of regional oil company Bashneft in 2009, from Ural Rakhimov, the son of the former president of the constituent republic of Bashkiria, Murtaza Rakhimov. Ural Rakhimov in turn is believed to have acquired the Bashneft assets illegally.
According to business daily Vedomosti, a source close to Sistema said that Yevtushenko had been released from house arrest. According to the paper, the company's press service confirmed the information, without providing details.
Russian President Vladimir Putin knows about Yevtushenkov's release, his press secretary Dmitry Peskov told TV channel Dozhd, adding however that Putin had learnt about it from the media. "There is an ongoing investigation which needs to be concluded. No one is guilty until proven so in court," Peskov told Dozhd.
Muddying the waters further, government-owned news agency RIA Novosti reported Yevtushenkov as saying by phone that he had not been released.
Vedomosti's source close to the company said that investigators had taken the decision to release Yevtushenkov. Vladimir Markin, spokesman for Russia's investigative committee, told Vedomosti however that "the investigation of the criminal case involving Yevtushenkov is continuing, his detainment has not been changed."
Aleksandr Shokhin, president of the Russian Union of Entrepreneurs and Industrialists, the country's main business lobby, told Vedomosti that he had spoken with Yevtushenkov by telephone and the latter said that he was still under house arrest, but was not allowed to use his mobile phone. According to Shokhin, this indicates that the investigative committee is ready to release Yevtushenkov.
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