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Home News Khodorkovsky heckled by pro-Russian activists in east Ukraine

Khodorkovsky heckled by pro-Russian activists in east Ukraine

Published on 27/04/2014

Former Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky was heckled on Sunday by angry pro-Moscow activists in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk and barred from entering the rebel-held city hall.

Khodorkovsky, who spent a decade in prison in Russia and now lives in self-imposed exile in Switzerland, is visiting eastern Ukraine to “see for himself what’s happening there,” his spokeswoman Olga Pispanen told AFP.

Khodorkovsky wanted to speak to people in Donetsk city hall but was turned away by Russian-speaking activists who told him he was unwelcome, according to footage from regional television.

“We saw you on television. How can we speak to you?” shouted one man outside the building, according to the footage broadcast on Russian state television.

“You sold out your country, your homeland,” another Russian speaker angrily told the 50-year-old former head of the Yukos oil empire.

“That’s what I wanted to talk about,” Khodorkovsky responded, trying to stay calm before another activist tells him to leave.

Pispanen said the former oil tycoon on Saturday visited the eastern city of Kharkiv where he met students, activists and businessmen. She said people were friendly there.

Khodorkovsky was in Kiev last week where he participated in a conference about the future of Ukraine and Russia.

He said he saw it as his own “personal task” to help Ukraine see a better future.

“Because if Ukraine becomes more successful then democratisation in Russia will proceed faster,” he said at the conference.

In March, Khodorkovsky was greeted with a rousing reception in Kiev’s Maidan square, the heart of the protests that led to the toppling of the pro-Kremlin president in February.

Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man, was jailed in 2003 for fraud and tax evasion in what his supporters say was President Vladimir Putin’s revenge against him for financing the political opposition and openly criticising the Russian leader.

Putin stunned Russia in December when he said he had signed a decree to release his top foe.

Immediately upon his release, Khodorkovsky left Russia for Berlin, saying he would not be able to go back in the foreseeable future because he may not be allowed to leave again.