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An animal twist to the Yukos probe

Already scrutinized by a criminal probe, Russian oil firm Yukos is now facing new accusations that it let rabbits mate without supervision and mistreated pigs.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Battered by the intense scrutiny of a criminal probe, Russian oil giant Yukos may soon have to defend itself for letting rabbits mate without supervision and mistreating pigs.

Some television news shows on Thursday made much of the finding by a regional agricultural authority that a farm belonging to a Yukos-affiliated company kept animals in poor conditions, placing the story at the top of newscasts accompanied with footage of piglets and bunnies.

The attention underscored the intense scrutiny surrounding Yukos since the Oct. 25 arrest of chairman Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Khodorkovsky was jailed on charges of fraud and tax evasion, and he resigned his post Monday.

Allegations of animal mistreatment against Yukos surfaced in an inspection of a farm belonging to a Yukos-affiliated company in the Siberian region of Yakutia, news reports said.

Male and female rabbits were kept together and “couplings take place unsystematically,” the Interfax news agency said. Nursing sows are also kept in common stalls, which is against regulation, Interfax cited the report assaying.

In a statement on NTV television, Yukos spokesman Alexander Shadrin said the company takes the complaint seriously and “we express the hope that to the numerous charges filed against the Yukos company will not be added ... cruelty to animals.”