Once ranked as Russia’s richest man, jailed tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky goes on trial today, facing new charges of embezzlement and money laundering.
The 45-year-old is already serving a prison term in Siberia for tax evasion and fraud, something which he denies. Maxim Dbar, a spokesperson for Khodorkovsky’s defence team, said: “We will try to build a strategy on maximum openness and publicity. Journalists and the general public should pay more attention to this case. We promise that during the trial we will present evidence of Khodorkovsky’s innocence. It will be a very interesting and lively process.” Khodorkovsky was arrested in 2003. He claims he is the victim of corrupt officials who feared his political ambitions and wanted to carve up his Yukos business empire, which produced more oil than the OPEC member, Qatar. Allison Gill from “ Human Rights Watch” – Moscow gave her assessment of the Russian government. “The Kremlin has sent two messages with the Khodorkovsky prosecution and the first is that the Kremlin is going to play a role in determining the fate of the country’s natural resources like oil and the second is a warning to businessmen to curb their political ambitions,” she said. Some Russians believe Khodorkovsky’s real crime was to challenge the power of the then president Vladimir Putin while others see his downfall as a victory over the get-rich-quick oligarchs.