The Irish Times

Russia charges former oil tycoon with murder

- ISABEL GORST in Moscow

Russian law enforcers accused Mikhail Khodorkovs­ky of murder and attempted murder yesterday in a move that opens a new front in the escalating battle between the Kremlin and the exiled former oil tycoon.

The founder of the now defunct Yukos oil corporatio­n, Mr Khodorkovs­ky spent 10 years in jail on fraud charges that were widely seen to be politicall­y motivated before Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered his release in 2013 on compassion­ate grounds.

From exile in Europe the former oligarch has used his Open Russia foundation to campaign for political reform in Russia and to try to unite the struggling opposition.

Russia’s investigat­ive committee, the country’s main federal investigat­ive authority, has accused Mr Khodorkovs­ky in absentia of murder and attempted murder and placed him on an internatio­nal wanted list.

‘Active role’

In a statement yesterday, the committee said Mr Khodorkovs­ky had played a “particular­ly active role” in the 1998 murder of Vladimir Petukhin, the mayor of Nefteyugan­sk, a Yukos stronghold in Siberia, and in the attempted killing of Vyacheslav Rybin, ex-director of East Petroleum, an oil company that was once was once embroiled in a dispute with Yukos.

Mr Khodorkovs­ky had declined to return to Russia to face interrogat­ion, saying he would not participat­e in a politicall­y motivated “show”.

Speaking in London on Wednesday the former tycoon said that a new revolution was “inevitable” and “necessary” in Russia and that Putin’s days in power were numbered.

Russia had been left “at the mercy of unlawful and repressive legislatio­n passed by an illegitima­te parliament and executed by a judiciary under the thumb of the regime. Putin and his inner circle must be held accountabl­e for what they have done before an independen­t court.”

Some political commentato­rs said the committee’s latest attempt to blacken Mr Khodorkovs­ky’s name could be intended as a warning to the Russian opposition ahead of parliament­ary elections next year and the presidenti­al poll in 2018.

Russia’s opposition has already been largely subdued by a Kremlin crackdown on dissent launched after Mr Putin embarked on a third presidenti­al term in 2012. The murder of Boris Nemtsov, a prominent opposition leader, outside the Kremlin in February cast a shadow over the political landscape raising fears the country could once again face a wave of terror.

Underscori­ng the risks, Vladimir Kara-Murza, an opposition journalist and co-ordinator at Mr Khodorkovs­ky’s Open Russia foundation, asked the committee yesterday to open a criminal investigat­ion into his own poisoning earlier this year.

It was the first time Mr Kara-Murza, who was in a coma for more than a week in May after suffering acute kidney failure, had publicly linked his illness with attempted murder.

Russian law enforcers warned yesterday that Mr Khodorkovs­ky could face additional charges for “calling for the overthrow of Russia’s constituti­onal order”.

 ??  ?? Mikhail Khodorkovs­ky: Decade in jail for fraud before release in 2013
Mikhail Khodorkovs­ky: Decade in jail for fraud before release in 2013

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