MOSCOW, March 8 - RAPSI. Hermitage Capital on Thursday dismissed the Russian Interior Ministry's new charges against its head William Browder as "absurd" and "hysterical."

Earlier in the day, the ministry said it had filed fraud charges against UK-based Hermitage Capital head Browder, alleging his involvement in a scheme to “illegally purchase” Gazprom shares. It said the charges were filed in absentia because the ministry’s summons was ignored.

“All the recent developments can be described as revenge and hysteria by persons in positions of authority, who have unlimited state resources and who have lost control of common sense, for fear of economic and visa sanctions against corrupt Russian officials, the enactment of the Magnitsky Law in the United States and the prospect of its extension to the EU,” a Hermitage Capital spokesman said.

Hermitage Capital also ridiculed the ministry’s claim that the company used “a special scheme” to buy up “the most liquid” Russian assets.

Presumably, the company should have invested funds in “non-liquid” Russian assets, the spokesman said.

The Interior Ministry said the charges were filed in absentia because no one had responded to the summons served two days ago by diplomatic mail.

“Professionals at the Interior Ministry know that summonses are not sent abroad via embassies and the Foreign Ministry, but there is a special procedure for that, established in the Russian code of legal procedure as well as in international law,” the spokesman said.

On Tuesday, Interior Ministry official Mikhail Alexandrov said companies employing mainly foreign nationals and “managed by William Browder” had “illegally” purchased shares in state-owned energy giant Gazprom.

The development comes less than a week before Browder and Hermitage Capital lawyer Sergei Magnitsky - who died under disputed circumstances in a Moscow jail in 2009 - are to be tried in Russia in a separate case on tax evasion charges.

Magnitsky’s family is boycotting the trial of the deceased lawyer, who was detained in November 2008 after alleging a massive tax embezzlement scheme by Russian officials, and Browder will be tried in absentia.