FT: Yukos official ‘could die in prison’

The Financial Times is carrying a story today on the situation of Vasily Alexanyan, the former Yukos general counsel who has been denied urgent medical care while in Russian custody. This blog first reported the story here and here.

Yukos official ‘could die in prison’ By Catherine Belton in Moscow, Financial Times Lawyers acting for a jailed senior Yukos official say their client could die in prison after Russian officials three times failed to act on a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that he receive immediate medical treatment at a specialised clinic.

Vasily Aleksanyan, the former vice-president of the bankrupt Russian oil company, is suffering from a life-threatening illness for which prison doctors prescribed urgent medication and therapy 14 months ago, his lawyers said.But Mr Aleksanyan has yet to receive any treatment or be transferred to a specialist civilian clinic where investigators and the ECHR have said the treatment, which has potentially lethal side effects, should be administered. Instead he has been transferred to a prison hospital, where he contracted tuberculosis two months ago. He has gone blind and is unable to read the fraud and embezzlement charges against him.”His condition is so bad that he could die at any moment. He could die from a cold,” said Yelena Lvova, a defence lawyer for Mr Aleksanyan, who was arrested in March 2006 as part of a case against Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Yukos’s owner. Ms Lvova said she did not have Mr Alexanyan’s permission to disclose the exact nature of his illness.”The way the Russian government is behaving right now can only be described as shockingly repulsive,” said Drew Holiner, Mr Aleksanyan’s lawyer in the ECHR case.”If he dies in prison the ECHR is going to find Russia is responsible for that.”The federal prison service said a Russian court would have to issue a ruling before Mr Aleksanyan could be transferred to a specialist clinic. Russia’s prosecutors’ office declined to comment on the case. The investigations committee at the prosecutor-general’s office was not able to comment.Mr Aleksanyan’s condition is likely also to raise concern about other former Yukos officials jailed in Russia’s prisons, which are notorious for cramped and insanitary conditions and for rampant tuberculosis. Mr Khodorkovsky, the country’s former richest man, who was arrested in October 2003 in a Kremlin campaign said by critics to be politically motivated, is reported by his lawyers to be “more or less” in good health.Defence lawyers said Russia’s ignoring of the ECHR rulings on Mr Aleksanyan was a sign of the Kremlin’s increasing impunity in violating basic human rights.”The higher the oil price goes, the greater the silence in the west over violations of human rights in Russia, and the worse things get here. We’re like a voice crying in the desert,” said Yury Shmidt, a lead defence lawyer for Mr Khodorkovsky.The rulings of the ECHR have not been published because of sensitive information contained in the case.