Khodorkovsky announces hunger strike, lashes out at Kremlin |

Khodorkovsky announces hunger strike, lashes out at Kremlin

MOSCOW – Jailed Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky lashed out at the Kremlin and announced a hunger strike to support his business partner, who was moved into an isolation cell last week, according to a statement Tuesday.In the statement posted on a pro-Khodorkovsky Web site and confirmed to The Associated Press by his lawyer, the battered oil magnate claimed the Kremlin was behind decisions by prison authorities to transfer colleague Platon Lebedev to the isolation cell and move Khodorkovsky himself to a more crowded cell.The statement said Lebedev is seriously ill and was moved on Aug. 19 to a 32-square-foot cell, according to Khodorkovsky lawyer Anton Drel.”It is obvious that they threw my friend into the isolation cell to take revenge against me, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, for my articles and interviews.””Let the Kremlin think it is showing strength, in fact it is a display of their weakness and fear,” it said, according to Drel. “Being in no condition to enter an open political discussion with me, they use the last weapons – an isolation cell and a common cell.”Khodorkovsky was convicted of fraud and tax evasion in May in a 13-month trial that was widely viewed as part of a campaign by President Vladimir Putin’s administration to punish him for funding opposition parties and to impede his presumed political ambitions. He was sentenced to nine years. Lebedev, convicted with Khodorkovsky, received the same sentence.In an interview published in a Russian newspaper this month, Khodorkovsky repeated his frequent contention that the prosecutor’s office and trial judge were under intense political pressure, and said he believed his verdict would eventually be overturned.Khodorkovsky has criticized the Kremlin in a range of articles and interviews, and recently said he was considering running in an upcoming parliamentary by-election. Kremlin critics said his political statements may have prompted his move to a more crowded cell.Another Khodorkovsky lawyer, Yuri Shmidt, told the AP on Tuesday that authorities are creating obstacles for the potential parliamentary bid. Under election laws, Khodorkovsky is allowed to run as long as his verdict is being appealed, and Shmidt alleged that court officials were hastening the process to ensure that he cannot seek the seat.Shmidt said Khodorkovsky’s lawyers were given only a few days to study several thousand pages of court transcripts at about the same time as Khodorkovsky said he might run. “I don’t believe in such coincidences,” Shmidt said.In the statement, Khodorkovsky said he had begun a hunger strike – with no food or drink – to show solidarity with Lebedev.”He knows that he is not alone,” the statement said. “And each of my countrymen in whom the heart of fairness and freedom beats should know: we are together.”Drel said Khodorkovsky began the hunger strike a few days ago. The Interfax news agency said Lebedev was moved into the isolation cell for a week.After his arrest in October 2003, Khodorkovsky’s Yukos oil company was hit with billions of dollars in back-tax bills. Its major production unit was auctioned off by the state to partially meet the tax arrears, eventually being obtained by the state oil company Rosneft. That fueled accusations the tax claims were designed to boost state control over Russia’s lucrative oil reserves.Vail – Colorado

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