Activists call on Putin to trade places with Khodorkovsky

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Youth activists in Russia's Urals said powerful Prime Minister Vladimir Putin should trade places with Mikhail Khodorkovsky as a court found the jailed tycoon guilty in his second fraud trial.

Activists from youth movement Oborona said they had painted dozens of stencils depicting the faces of Putin and Khodorkovsky on Sunday night around the city of Yekaterinburg in the Urals to call attention to the trial seen as a watershed in Russia's post-Soviet history.

The stencils on the walls of residential buildings say "(I am) swapping Putin for Khodorkovsky" -- a reference to the Russian strongman's statement that "a thief must be in prison," the youth movement said.

Oborona activist Stepan Rudakov, speaking on popular Echo of Moscow radio, said that no-one was detained while painting the buildings as the city's frigid temperatures of 30 degrees below zero kept police and passers-by indoors.

A Moscow court on Monday found Khodorkovsky and his co-accused Platon Lebedev guilty of embezzlement and money laundering charges, dashing the hopes of Russian liberals the trial would show a new approach from Russian courts.

The judgement came after Putin said earlier this month that Khodorkovsky "must be in prison" because his guilt had been proved in court and he had blood on his hands.

© 2010 AFP

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