Russia ends suspense over Khodorkovsky whereabouts

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Russian officials finally broke nearly two weeks of suspense over the whereabouts of Mikhail Khodorkovsky confirming the country's top prisoner had been moved to the north, his supporters said on Tuesday.

"The information that Mikhail Khodorkovsky had been sent to the No 7 penal colony in Segezh in Karelia was confirmed on Monday," said, a site which handles media coverage for the fallen tycoon.

Prison officials told Khodorkovsky's parents he had been sent to the northern region of Karelia on Monday and informed them of his precise whereabouts earlier in the day, it said, noting that according to the law the notification should have come 12 days ago.

A spokesman for the site told AFP Khodorkovsky had arrived at the colony on Friday.

The spokesman for the Federal Service for the Execution of Punishment, the successor to the Soviet-era Gulag prison system, Alexander Kromin, declined to comment.

"We do not discuss this topic with the news media," he told AFP.

Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev were last month declared "prisoners of conscience" by Amnesty International. They have been in prison since 2003 and were in December convicted of a second set of fraud charges.

Earlier this month Khodorkovsky, who served his first sentence in a prison camp near the town of Chita in Siberia, was abruptly taken from his Moscow prison cell with no warning to his family or lawyers.

Segezh is located some 1,280 kilometers (795 miles) from Moscow and sits not far from the White Sea-Baltic Sea canal, a ship canal built under Stalin. Thousands of Gulag prisoners died during the canal's construction.

Lebedev's lawyer Yelena Liptser said her client was now being held at the pre-trial detention centre in the northern city of Arkhangelsk where he would stay at least until Friday.

His family has so far not been officially informed of his whereabouts, Liptser told AFP.

Khodorkovsky had last month requested parole after serving half of his prison sentence. His request is likely to be reviewed in the location of his imprisonment rather than Moscow.

© 2011 AFP

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