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As Euromoney went to press investors were struggling to come to terms with the freezing by Russian prosecutors of a large block of shares in Yukos. Badly burnt by the 1998 crisis, foreign investors have been slow to return to the Russian stock markets and those that did were all buying shares in Yukos, commonly viewed as Russia's most transparent and best managed company.

"The conflict has clearly entered new and uncharted territory, where anything - a change in Yukos's control, change in management, cancellation of licences, etc - no longer appears impossible," says Stephen Deshevsky, the head of research at Aton. "The only good place to be right now is on the sidelines."

Optimists hope that the impact will be limited to Yukos and that the broader Russian market will soon resume its climb. But no-one can be sure what happens next.

"The arrest, indictment and imprisonment of Mikhail Khodorkovsky is a disgraceful setback in Russia's post-Soviet development. Everyone is a loser, very much including

president Putin himself," says Christopher Granville, chief strategist at United Financial Group.

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