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Russia’s Crackdown on Billionaire Prompts Comparisons to Khodorkovsky Case

Vladimir Yevtushenkov / Getty Images

Russian billionaire Vladimir Yevtushenkov said he bore no grudge against the state for putting him under house arrest and seizing his stake in an oil company, moving to ease ties after the asset grab scared investors, Reuters said.

The steps taken against the billionaire have raised fears among investors over increased state intervention to try to bolster the economy, and prompted comparisons with the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, whose Yukos oil empire was broken up and sold off into the hands of the state, the report said.

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In an interview with newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, Yevtushenkov said he was looking ahead after the privatization of Bashneft oil company was overturned and he was held on suspicion of money laundering during its acquisition, Reuters said.

His words follow overtures by President Vladimir Putin, who at his end-of-year news conference in December invited Yevtushenkov to a business meeting and said he hoped his Sistema conglomerate would restore its position on the stock market, the report said.

Asked whether he resented the authorities, Yevtushenkov told Komsomolskaya Pravda: “Are you joking or what? I am the flesh and the blood of this country – what offense (could I take)?”

He hinted that being held under house arrest had been tough, but said in the interview published on Saturday: “You realize that you cannot live in the past, you need to live in the future. And I live in the future, and the past is the past.”

His words came at a time when Russia’s economy is heading for recession, brought low by Western sanctions over Moscow’s actions in Ukraine and a flagging oil price. They also underline big business’s loyalty to the Kremlin’s policies so far, Reuters said.

In an earlier development, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov strongly criticized ex-Yukos head Khodorkovsky for calling on the media to publish more cartoon images of the Prophet Muhammad in the wake of the terrorist attack in France, Tass said.

“After the bloody crime in Paris he must have imagined he is more French than the president of France or the prime minister of that country. At a time when the French authorities are busy with the investigation and with taking measures that would prevent a further surge of tensions, Khodorkovsky has urged all media to follow in the footsteps of the Paris magazine and to go on publishing caricatures, ” Kadyrov said on his Instagram page.

The Chechen leader claimed that by making such calls Khodorkovsky has positioned himself as “an enemy of all Muslims of the world”, the report said.

“This means he is my personal enemy, too. I am certain that in Switzerland, a country he loves so much, there will be thousands of law-abiding citizens who will bring this ex-convict to account. Apparently, that will be done in a harsh and explicit way, ” Kadyrov said.

Earlier, the speaker of Chechnya’s parliament, Dukuvakha Abdurakhkmanov, also denounced the ex-chief of Yukos over his statement, the report said.



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