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Khodorkovsky says no regrets over Yukos purchase


MOSCOW, June 26 (RIA Novosti) - Jailed Yukos founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky has said that he took an enormous risk acquiring the oil firm in the turbulent 1990s, but never regretted the move, he told Gazeta.ru in an interview published on Friday.

Khodorkovsky, who turns 46 today, also reiterated in the article that the pervasive privatization that took place in post-Soviet Russia was unfair and premature.

Talking about the purchase and the risks involved, Khodorkovsky said: "On the one side, there was everything we had worked for in the past 10 years, plus bank debts, looming elections which could have left us with nothing, Yukos's $3 billion debt to the state, suppliers, workers, and declining output."

"On the other side, we had a unique team, a giant enterprise that would have been worth a fortune after reconstruction."

"I decided to take the risk and never regretted the move. The seven years in Yukos are probably one of the main undertakings of my life. Yukos grew into a leading Russian oil company by 2003," the former businessman said.

Khodorkovsky is serving an eight-year sentence for fraud and tax evasion since 2005, but faces new charges that could extend his prison term by another 20 years if he is found guilty. Yukos was made bankrupt and sold off to pay debts. The bulk of the firm's assets were bought up by state-run oil company Rosneft.

Khodorkovsky said he now realizes that economic reforms in the country should have been launched after democratic institutions had been established paving the way for "a broad consensus on private property."

"The majority of our people appeared unprepared to take advantage of the new opportunities, while the state offered no mechanisms to help them," he said.

Khodorkovsky said he later tried to make up for his mistakes and promote the development of the political system. He set up the Open Russia charity endowment fund to help academic institutions and NGOs and an online education association.

The charity was shut down after repeated raids by prosecutors and legal procedures were launched against him and his partners.

Khodorkovsky said his destiny was not going to be decided in court and said he believes in an independent judicial system in Russia, but added this would require joint action by everyone to achieve.

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