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Khodorkovsky says Medvedev not linked to 'Yukos plunder'


MOSCOW, March 18 (RIA Novosti) - Jailed Yukos founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky said in an interview published on Wednesday that the current Russian president was not linked to the break-up of his oil firm and did not have to fear his release.

Khodorkovsky, who is serving eight years on tax evasion and fraud charges that were seen by some critics as politically motivated, is facing an extension to his sentence on new fraud charges.

In the interview with the Sobesednik paper, Khodorkovsky said he respected Dmitry Medvedev as a legitimately elected leader. He also said however that the president's political stance on many issues was not quite clear to him.

"He definitely did not plunder Yukos and has no reason to fear [business partner] Platon Lebedev and me. The rest will become clear in the near future," the former oil tycoon told the weekly paper.

During the preliminary hearings on the new, embezzlement and money laundering charges against him, Khodorkovsky asked the court to impound the assets of the now defunct Yukos, stating that in the event of his acquittal, the assets must be returned to him. The bulk of the company's assets were bought up by state-run oil company Rosneft.

On the subject of Vladimir Putin, Medvedev's predecessor, under who Khodorkovsky was jailed and Yukos sold off to pay debts, Russia's former richest man said he was trying to see him as a "historical figure."

"He was Russia's president and is no longer so. It is up to the next generation to determine whether he ran the country well or badly," Khodorkovsky told the paper.

A Moscow court rejected on Tuesday a request from Khodorkovsky's defense lawyers to drop the new charges they have repeatedly called "ridiculous" and "unsubstantiated." The defense said a fair verdict was extremely unlikely and pledged to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights if their clients were convicted again.

Khodorkovsky, however, was upbeat about his future, saying that when he was freed he would not engage in the oil business again, but focus on renewable energy, which he said would gradually replace other sources of energy in the future, the paper reported.

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