Putin accuses jailed oil tycoon of organising murders

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Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Monday accused jailed oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky of resorting to murder to protect his business interests.

"His hands are stained with blood," Putin told a meeting of the Valdai club of leading international experts on Russia. "He killed people to protect the economic interests of his company."

Khodorkovsky, the former head of Yukos oil company and once Russia's richest man, will go on trial a second time on charges of embezzling millions of tonnes of oil and money laundering.

The former oil tycoon and his ex-partner Platon Lebedev are already serving lengthy jail sentences for fraud.

Speaking in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Putin noted that Khodorkovsky himself had not faced justice for the murder of a woman who had refused to pay protection money.

"He was not jailed for this, the head of his security service was convicted," he said.

After making the allegations, Putin pledged that he would not interfere in the case. "How will his destiny unfold in the future? There are various procedures. I do not meddle and I am not going to interfere."

Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were jailed for eight years in 2005 on charges of fraud and tax evasion that their supporters argue were trumped up to punish the tycoon for daring to finance opposition parties.

At the time of his arrest in 2003, Khodorkovsky was seen as a political rival to Putin.

© 2010 AFP

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