Khodorkovsky Says Russia Plans to Charge Him in Murder Case

  • Summons is related to 1998 killing of Nefteyugansk mayor
  • Interfax reports Khodorkovsky was put on Russia's wanted list

Exiled Russian former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky was ordered to appear in Moscow this week to be charged in relation to a 1998 murder in a case brought almost two years after the Kremlin critic was released from a decade in prison camps.

Russia’s Investigative Committee summoned the former Yukos Oil Co. chief to appear at 10 a.m. on Dec. 11, according to a copy of the notice that he posted on Twitter on Tuesday. Khodorkovsky won’t return to Russia “because they’ll put him immediately in jail,” his spokeswoman Kulle Pispanen said by phone.

The committee said in June it had obtained evidence that Khodorkovsky may have ordered the murder of Vladimir Petukhov, the mayor of the western Siberian town of Nefteyugansk, prompting it to reopen the criminal probe into the killing. The law enforcement agency declined to comment when contacted by Bloomberg News.

Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man, was freed by presidential pardon in December 2013 after serving a decade in prison on fraud, tax evasion and money-laundering charges that he says were retribution for funding opposition parties. Now living in Switzerland, he’s been campaigning for the ouster of President Vladimir Putin after initially pledging to steer clear of politics. His Open Russia foundation fielded observers in regional elections in September.

“This case has been going on for 17 years and they never managed to find any proof,” Pispanen said. The decision to charge Khodorkovsky is likely retribution for his civil society activities, she said.

Wanted List

Russia’s law-enforcement authorities have put Khodorkovsky on their federal wanted list, the Interfax news service reported, citing a person it didn’t identify. Khodorkovsky’s Twitter account shows that he lives in Jona, Switzerland.

Yukos’s former security chief, Alexei Pichugin, is serving a life sentence for the killing of the late Nefteyugansk mayor, who was shot dead on Khodorkovsky’s 35th birthday amid a dispute with the oil company. Putin said in 2011 that he found it hard to believe Pichugin carried out the crime “all by himself.”

Nefteyugansk is based around Yuganskneftegaz, formerly Yukos’s largest production unit, which was seized by the government and sold to repay taxes as part of a campaign that wrested control of Russia’s largest oil company at the time from Khodorkovsky and transferred most of its assets to state-run OAO Rosneft.

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