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Russia Oligarch Sent to Solitary After Being Cut

C. J. CHIVERS / NY Times | April 19 2006

Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, the jailed Russian oil oligarch who was recently slashed in the face, has been put into solitary confinement in a Siberian penal camp, Russia's federal prison authorities announced on Tuesday.

Mr. Khodorkovsky, whose nose was stitched up last week after he was cut with a knife by a fellow inmate, was placed in the confinement cell for his own protection, a senior prison official said.

The official, Yuri Kalinin, director of the federal prison service, then made a remark suggesting that Mr. Khodorkovsky had made sexual advances against a male inmate — a suggestion that one of Mr. Khodorkovsky's lawyers denounced as a crude smear.

"In order to put an end to all speculation on convict Khodorkovsky, including about his life being in danger, we have decided to put him in solitary confinement," Mr. Kalinin said, according to the Interfax news agency. "He will be safe there."

Mr. Kalinin added: "I can say even now that Khodorkovsky himself provoked that situation to an extent. One should not get too close and friendly with young convicts."

Interfax quoted what it described as an anonymous prison source saying that the inmate who slashed Mr. Khodorkovsky, a 22-year-old man serving a sentence for theft, had given a written statement accusing Mr. Khodorkovsky of sexual harassment.

Mr. Khodorkovsky, once Russia's richest man, has been held since his arrest in 2003, and was convicted last year of fraud and other charges that his supporters say were contrived by the Kremlin to destroy a rival and to reassert state control over Russia's oil assets.

He is serving an eight-year sentence in a prison colony in the remote city of Chita, about 100 miles north of the border with eastern Mongolia. Robert Amsterdam, one of his lawyers, said Russia's actions, and the claims of sexual harassment, showed the degree to which Russia still feared Mr. Khodorkovsky, even in jail. "It is incredible to me that the Russian Federation will stop at nothing in destroying this man," he said by telephone.

Mr. Kalinin did not say how long Mr. Khodorkovsky would serve under the new conditions; the prison service did not answer phone calls.

 

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