Catherine Belton has just published an article in the Financial Times which features a first-time interview with the former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov revealing “a closed-door conversation he claims he had with Vladimir Putin in which the then president revealed political motives for the state’s legal pursuit of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the jailed former Yukos tycoon.“
Throwing his backing behind Mr Khodorkovsky’s suit in the European Court of Human Rights, Mr Kasyanov said he had laid out in an affidavit filed to the court in Strasbourg last week Mr Putin’s explanation in July 2003 for the rising state pressure on Mr Khodorkovsky and his Yukos oil company.
“He told me Khodorkovsky…was financing the Communist party without his agreement,” Mr Kasyanov told the FT.
Mr Kasyanov said he had pressed Mr Putin for an explanation many times about the July 2003 arrest of Platon Lebedev, Mr Khodorkovsky’s closest associate, and about mounting state pressure on Mr Khodorkovsky as prosecutors began to investigate tax fraud claims.
Mr Putin hadrefused to answer, he said, but at one point in July 2003 in a privatemeeting inside Mr Putin’s office in the Kremlin Palace, the presidenttold him that Mr Khodorkovsky had crossed a line by financing thecommunists without his permission even as he was financing the liberalYabloko and Union of Right Forces parties in line with Kremlin orders.”He did not say any more.” (…)
MrKasyanov’s statement could add weight to Mr Khodorkovsky’s appealagainst the Russian government in the European Court of Human Rightsclaiming that his arrest in 2003 was politically motivated.