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Top novelist praises Khodorkovsky for ‘strong’ book debut

Popular Russian writers including detective novelist Boris Akunin on Thursday gave support to former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky as they presented a book of his writings in Moscow.

Titled “Khodorkovsky,” the book has been released in a print run of 20,000 copies by mass-market publishing house Eksmo, and features photographs of the former Yukos chief in court alongside his articles and interviews.

Akunin, the author of period detective novels, whose real name is Grigory Chkhartishvili, interviewed Khodorkovsky by correspondence in 2008 for Russian Esquire magazine.

The prison bosses later sentenced Khodorkovsky to 12 days in an punishment cell for giving the interview in what they called a breach of rules.

At the presentation, Akunin, called the Khodorkovsky trial a “black-and-white story” of good and evil.

“As a writer, I am interested in shades of grey. This is a black-and-white story. It’s a classic story of a hero and an anti-hero, of decent and vile behaviour. More and more people understand this,” he told journalists.

Khodorkovsky was jailed for the second time last month on fraud charges and could stay behind bars until 2017. He was first detained in 2003 and was found guilty of tax evasion two years later, receiving an eight-year sentence.

Akunin praised the development of Khodorkovsky’s writing, saying that “Khodorkovsky has turned from a businessman to an author with a recognisable style. He now writes very strong texts.”

“He keeps all the emotion inside him. There is nothing superfluous,” Akunin added.

The book has a foreword by outspoken television host Leonid Parfyonov, who last year said at an awards ceremony that journalists on Russian television news were no more than bureaucrats serving the state.

“The chief player in the most important case never stops being one of the main news makers,” Parfyonov wrote of Khodorkovsky.

“The main news is that Khodorkovsky does not keep silent,” he said.