Khodorkovsky faces new charges within 1998 assassination case – report

Former Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky. © Peter Nicholls
Former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky claims that investigators have summoned him for interrogation as a suspect within the probe into the 1998 assassination of a Siberian city mayor.

The news initially appeared on Khodorkovsky’s own Twitter. He published a scan of the summons that ordered him to appear in the Investigative Committee – Russia’s federal law enforcement agency dealing with especially important crimes – “for questioning as a suspect.”

The summons mentioned the criminal case that was opened after the murder of Vladimir Petukhov – the mayor of the Siberian city of Neftyugansk who came into conflict with Khodorkovsky and other Yukos stakeholders and managers and was killed on June 26, 1998 - Khodorkovsky’s birthday.

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There is also a handwritten note on the document saying that it was not served due to the fact that Khodorkovsky was out of the country. The ex-tycoon currently permanently resides in Switzerland since his 2014 pardon by President Vladimir Putin, when he hurriedly left Russia.

The ex-tycoon called the law enforcers’ fresh move “a boring attempt to change the subject” He also assured his readers that he had no intention of meeting with investigators.

Russian police have already solved Petukhov’s assassination. In 2007 former head of Yukos security department Aleksey Pichugin was sentenced to life in prison for organizing the hit. In 2008 Russian court ruled that the killing was ordered by a key Yukos shareholder and Khodorkovsky’s personal friend Leonid Nevzlin. Nevzlin was also sentenced to life in prison for his role, but fled to Israel, which does not extradite criminals to Russia, and lives there to this day.

In June this year, the Investigative Committee spokesperson announced that the agency had reopened the Petukhov murder case in order to reexamine Khodorkovsky’s part in. In August, investigators attempted to question Khodorkovsky’s father, but he refused to talk to them, quoting the part of the Constitution that allows Russian citizens not to testify against themselves or their close relatives.

Investigators did not immediately comment on the summons sent to Khodorkovsky this week, but TASS news agency quoted a “well-informed” and unnamed source as saying that Khodorkovsky had been charged in absentia with complicity in the killing of the Neftyugansk mayor.

Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on fresh charges against Khodorkovsky on Tuesday, saying that reporters should address their questions directly to investigators. He added that when the president pardoned Khodorkovsky in 2013, he knew nothing about his possible role in Petukhov’s assassination.

The information did not exist back then. It only surfaced now and became the reason for the actions currently taken by investigative bodies,” RIA Novosti quoted Peskov as saying.

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Once Russia’s richest person, Mikhail Khodorkovsky was arrested in October 2003. Following a lengthy trial, in 2005 he was convicted of tax evasion and sentenced to nine years in prison. In 2009, Khodorkovsky was charged with embezzlement and money laundering. The second trial ended in late 2010 with a sentence of another 14 extra years, minus the term that he had already served. After another legal battle, the final ruling cut the sentence to 11 years.

In December 2013, Khodorkovsky was pardoned by Putin and left Russia for Germany to visit his elderly mother.