Europe

Russia Khodorkovsky: Court orders exiled tycoon's arrest

Mikhail Khodorkovsky in London (file pic Nov 2015) Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mikhail Khodorkovsky was freed two years ago and went into exile in Europe

A Russian court has placed ex-oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky on an international wanted list over the 1990s murder of a Siberian mayor.

Mr Khodorkovsky has been living in exile in Europe since he was pardoned by President Vladimir Putin in 2013 after 10 years in jail for fraud.

He told the BBC he was considering applying for political asylum in Britain as one of several options.

Russia's once-richest man said the authorities had "gone mad".

Mr Khodorkovsky is accused of ordering several of his employees to kill both the mayor and a businessman, who survived.

Investigators allege Vladimir Petukhov, the mayor of Nefteyugansk, was killed on 26 June 1998 for demanding Mr Khodorkovsky's oil firm, Yukos, pay taxes that the company had been avoiding.

Local businessman Yevgeny Rybin was allegedly targeted because his activities "clashed with Yukos's interests", Russia's powerful Investigative Committee (SK) said in a statement (in Russian) as it announced his arrest in absentia.

Mr Rybin survived a gun attack in November 1998 and a second attack on his car in March 1999, when another man in the vehicle was killed and several people were injured.

Five people have already been tried for the attacks and the arrest warrant is unlikely to make any difference unless Mr Khodorkovsky returns to Russia, the BBC's Sarah Rainsford reports from Moscow.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption President Putin's decision to nationalise Mr Khodorkovsky's oil firm was seen as a message to tycoons to keep out of politics
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Khodorkovsky was held before his release in 2013 at a penal colony close to the Finnish border

Armed police raided the Moscow offices of Mr Khodorkovsky's Open Russia pro-democracy movement on Tuesday, in a move that authorities said was linked to allegations of tax evasion. The flats of at least seven activists who work for Mr Khodorkovsky were also searched.

Mr Khodorkovsky has always argued that the fraud charges for which he was imprisoned were politically motivated.

The exiled tycoon, who now spends much of his time in London. has repeatedly criticised President Putin in recent months. He said Tuesday's raids were acts of intimidation and the sign of an "authoritarian regime" nearing its "inevitable" end.

In further comments on Wednesday, Mr Khodorkovsky said the authorities were acting like bandits: "They've gone mad. I realised that yesterday."

After Mr Khodorkovsky was arrested in 2003, Yukos was broken up and taken over by a state oil firm. Last year an international arbitration court in The Hague said Russian officials had manipulated the legal system to bankrupt Yukos, and jail Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

The court told Russia to pay former shareholders in Yukos $50bn (£32bn) in compensation.

Image copyright AFP

Timeline: Mikhail Khodorkovsky

1963 - Born in Moscow, son of chemical engineers

1987 - Founds Menatep bank

1995 - Buys Yukos for $350m, with Menatep assuming $2bn in debt

2003 - Arrested for tax evasion, embezzlement and fraud

2005 - Found guilty on six of seven charges, jailed for eight years

2007 - Yukos declared bankrupt

2010 - Convicted of embezzlement and money laundering

2013 - Pardoned by President Putin after request for clemency; leaves Russia for Germany

2015 - Charged with ordering 1990s murder of Siberian mayor; says Russian authorities have "gone mad"

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