Khodorkovsky throws down gauntlet to Putin


Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the jailed former head of Russia's biggest oil company, YUKOS, has thrown down the gauntlet to Vladimir Putin, the man many believe personally ordered his arrest. The oligarch who was once Russia's richest man, has challenged the Russian Prime Minister to answer in court a series of questions.

Mr Khodorkovsky claims that the prosecution's case is full of flaws, and challenges Mr Putin to explain his actions relating to Russia's state-owned oil company Rosneft, which acquired major YUKOS assets at state-run auctions. Rosneft's chairman is Igor Sechin, a Kremlin insider and a close associate of Mr Putin.

Meanwhile, YUKOS has won injunctions complicating payments by foreign customers to Rosneft, jeopardising delivery of up to a fifth of Russia's oil exports, Reuters reported. "Under a worst case scenario, there could be chaos with payments and a complete deadlock of Rosneft's exports," a trader with a global major said.

Political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin says the Russian ruling system, and Mr Putin, work by "Stalinist, bandit logic", whereby releasing Mr Khodorkovsky would be seen as a sign of weakness, not of compassion. The regime may also be worried that Mr Khodorkovsky could become a figurehead for opposition forces.

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