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New charges against former Yukos boss

Latest update : 2008-06-30

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, one of Russia's first oligarchs and the former head of oil giant Yukos, is facing fresh charges from Russian prosecutors, according to his lawyer. Khodorkovsky is currently serving out an eight-year sentence in eastern Russia.

Russian prosecutors on Monday filed new charges against imprisoned former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, his lawyer said, accusing the authorities of trying to draw out the inquiry.

"A new charge was presented on June 30.... It's the same collection of absurd and unproven declarations about the alleged theft of all the oil extracted by Yukos over six years," the lawyer, Yury Schmidt, told AFP.

Schmidt said the fact that Khodorkovsky was warned on his 45th birthday on June 26 that he would face new charges showed the "petty and vindictive character of those who are behind this criminal initiative."

Khodorkovsky, once Russia's richest man, was arrested in 2003 when his jet was stormed by armed police on a runway in Siberia. He is now serving out an eight-year sentence for fraud in a remote prison in eastern Russia.

The case was used by then president Vladimir Putin to assert his power over Russia's most influential tycoons and analysts say it marked the start of a rise in state control over the country's lucrative energy sector.

"We are sure that, whatever the legal intrigues, if this case goes to a court that shows even the smallest signs of independence there will be a complete collapse of the invented accusation," Schmidt said.

The lawyer said the new charges showed "the uncertainty of investigators and.... their desire to procrastinate to get new testimonies and a confirmation of support from above," a reference to Russia's new President Dmitry Medvedev.

Date created : 2008-06-30