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Prosecutor: Witnesses confirm Khodorkovsky’s complicity in masterminding murders

According to testimonies by businessman Yevgeny Rybin former Yukos chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky was the one who ordered three killings due to a conflict he was not going to resolve by legal means

MOSCOW, January 27. /TASS/. Witnesses confirm the complicity of former head of the Yukos oil company Mikhail Khodorkovsky in the crimes he is accused of, the spokesman for the prosecution said at Moscow City Court hearings over the lawyer’s complaint against Khodorkovsky’s arrest in absentia.

"The court of first instance has studied the records of questioning Smirnov, who learned from Gorin that Khodorkovsky was the one who ordered the crime," Prosecutor Valery Lakhtin said.

He added that Khodorkovsky’s complicity was confirmed by other testimonies and victims.

Nevertheless Lakhtin said that according to testimonies by [businessman Yevgeny] Rybin Khodorkovsky was the one who ordered three killings due to a conflict he was not going to resolve by legal means.

"I began to be victimized. Stones were thrown into my windows. There were attempts at blowing me up and attack me on the roads. Those were Khodorkovsky’s people," say Rybin’s testimonies read out by the prosecutor.

Moscow court leaves in effect Khodorkovsky’s arrest warrant

Moscow City Court has declared legal the earlier decision made by a court of lower instance in absentia to issue a warrant for the arrest of the former head of the Yukos oil company, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who is accused of masterminding murders and attempted murders.

"The ruling pronounced by Moscow’s Basmanny Court to remand Mikhail Khodorkovsky in custody shall stay unchanged, while the defense’s appeal shall be turned down," the judge said.

Prosecutor Valery Lakhtin said that investigators had enough reasons to believe that Khodorkovsky, if left at large, might hamper further investigation, go ahead with criminal activities and put pressures on those involved.

Irina Bykhanova, appointed as Khodorkovsky’s defense lawyer, argues that none of the investigators point to Khodorkovsky as the one who had ordered the crimes, but merely retell rumors.

"I believe that his complicity is not proven. Consequently, the restrictive measure against him cannot be taken," she said. Bykhanova believes that Khodorkovsky is innocent of the charges brought against him. She argues her client is unable to put pressures on witnesses or other persons involved in the case, because most all of them are convicts already serving prison terms on other counts, while he is absent from Russia and poses no threat.

The investigation of the case has been prolonged till July 30.

Khodorkovsky’s residence not established

According to the prosecutor, investigators have no information on the place of residence of Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

"There is no information about Khodorkovsky's residence place. He has no permanent registration in Russia. According to intelligence data, Khodorkovsky has not visited Russia since he left the country," the prosecutor said.

The public prosecutor said that investigators have an unbiased attitude to the former Yukos head. "The investigators’ attitude to Khodorkovsky is formed based on the case files and evidence," the prosecutor said.

He added that while in prison, Khodorkovsky had eight times violated the penitentiary regime. In addition, he has no registration in Russia and he is absconding.

On December 23, 2015, Moscow’s Basmanny Court at the investigator’s request arrested Khodorkovsky in absentia on charges of organizing murders and put on an international wanted list. Russian Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said then that "After considering the petition of the Russian Investigative Committee’s department on investigating particularly important cases, the court has chosen detention as the measure of restraint against Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been put on an international wanted list," Markin said.

Khodorkovsky is charged within the criminal proceedings instituted against individuals from among Yukos senior executives involved in the organization of a number of particularly serious crimes.

Criminal proceedings against separate Yukos senior executives who stood behind particularly grave crimes such as the murder of Nefteyugansk Mayor Vladimir Petukhov and attempted homicide of Yevgeny Rybin, the East Petroleum Handelsges manager, were initiated in 1998.

On June 30 last year, the Russian Investigation Committee said it was resuming the investigation into Petukhov’s murder in connection with newly appeared information that Khodorkovsky could have contracted Petukhov’s murder and ordered a number of other grave crimes. On December 11, 2015, Khodorkovsky, who had not turned up for questioning, was charged with the organization of two murders. On December 23, Moscow’s Basmanny Court arrested the ex-Yukos chief also in absentia at the investigator’s request.

Russian Investigation Committee Spokesperson Vladimir Markin said that Khodorkovsky had been put on the international wanted list and that the investigators would do everything to bring him to justice.

It is a third case against Mikhail Khodorkovsky, in which he appears as a defendant. In May 2005, Moscow’s Meshchansky Court sentenced him and MENATEP Bank ex-chief Platon Lebedev to 9 years in prison for fraud and tax evasion. Later, the Moscow City Court reduced their prison terms to 8 years.

In a second case, Moscow’s Khamovnichesky Court found Khodorkovsky and Platonov guilty of charges of embezzlement and money laundering and sentenced them to 14 years in prison. The Moscow City Court presidium later softened the sentence to 11 years.

Russian President Vladimir Putin pardoned Khodorkovsky in December 2013. He was released from prison on December 20, 2013. In January 2014, the Russian Supreme Court reduced Platon Lebedev’s sentence to ten and a half years, before he had served his time. He was also released.

Currently, the term of the preliminary investigation has been extended until July 30.