Russia Sues U.S. Tobacco Cos.
MIAMI (AP) - Joining a long line of nations seeking retribution from U.S. tobacco companies, Russia is suing the industry for damages in Miami, home of a record anti-tobacco jury verdict.
Russia's lawsuit, filed Aug. 27, seeks millions, if not billions, in damages to compensate the nation for health care spending on smoking-related illnesses, plus punitive damages.
Charges in the lawsuit parallel those in a smokers' lawsuit that produced a $145 billion verdict against the five biggest U.S. cigarette makers in July, and a racketeering claim has been added.
The office of Kremlin property manager Vladimir Kozhin filed the lawsuit. Kozhin's office had no comment on the lawsuit Thursday. Attorney Nancy Ashenoff said it follows the lines of other lawsuits filed by her firm for Ecuador, Venezuela and Brazilian states.
Russia has remained one of the most smoker-friendly nations in the world, with few limits on smoking in public places. Foreign tobacco giants have poured in and become some of the nation's leading investors since the fall of the Soviet Union.
``Due largely to Big Tobacco's own fraud, the (Russian) Federation has not adopted stricter anti-tobacco measures,'' the lawsuit charged.
Mike York, an attorney for industry-leading Philip Morris, called the lawsuit silly, based on government control of the tobacco industry in the Soviet era.
``All these cases suffer the same lack of any legal support, we think, factually, but in Russia's case that kind of goes more than double,'' York said. ``For the most part, Soviet citizens were not permitted and not able to purchase anything but cigarettes made by the Soviet-controlled tobacco monopoly.''
The suit filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court has been moved to federal court. Attorneys for the Russian government are trying to get it sent back.