MOSCOW, June 30. /TASS/. Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s defence and the former head of the oil company Yukos himself have so far refrained from making any meaningful comments in response to the Investigative Committee’s decision to reinvestigate the 1998 murder of the mayor of Nefteyugansk, Vladimir Petukhov, as well as speculations Khodorkovsky himself might have been behind the high-profile crime.
Investigative Committee’s spokesman Vladimir Markin said on Tuesday that newly-discovered evidence prompted the law enforcers to probe into Petukhov’s violent death again. According to the latest information obtained by the IC, Markin said, "Yukos chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky himself might have been the one who ordered that killing and a number of other grave crimes."
"I do not comment on fantasies and speculations, even if they come from the Investigative Committee. Secondly, the law establishes a list of circumstances that can serve as a sufficient reason for reinvestigating the case. When the investigators take the trouble of saying what this new evidence is the defence will offer its own comments," Khodorkovsky’s lawyer Vadim Kluvgant said.
In his microblog in Twitter Khodorkovsky asked Markin if the latest decision was "a reaction to the ruling of the Hague Court of Arbitration (which last July obliged Russia to pay nearly $50 billion to companies affiliated with former Yukos shareholders) or to a series of articles about Russia’s future after Putin?"
"The Investigative Committee is not interested in politics," Markin tweeted in reply. "We are probing only into those articles where Khodorkovsky’s involvement is proven. That these are criminal articles is no fault of ours."
Nefteyugansk Mayor Vladimir Petukhov was killed on June 26, 1998. Shortly before that he had a conflict with the largest local taxpayer, YUKOS. Petukhov accused the company of evading due tax payments, thereby causing wage arrears in the city and disrupting the operation of utilities services.
In June 1998 Petukhov went on a hunger-strike to press for opening a criminal case against YUKOS. He agreed to end the protest action only after the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District’s governor, Alexander Filipenko promised to look into the matter and take action. Several days later Petukhov was killed with an automatic rifle on his way to work near the building of the city administration.
The former chief of YUKOS’s security department, Alexey Pichugin, was found guilty and convicted of the murder.