Russian jail frowns on Yukos co-accused parole request

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A Russian prison on Tuesday gave a bleak assessment of the suitability for parole of the co-accused of ex-oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, saying he has lost a prison uniform and was impolite.

The comments by an official from the Velsk prison in northern Russia dealt a major blow to the hopes of parole for Platon Lebedev, who like Khodorkovsky is due to stay in jail in 2016 in the case of the now defunct oil giant Yukos.

Some observers have seen a real chance that Lebedev could be granted parole by the court in Velsk, and supporters including his wife and star Soviet actress Natalya Fateyeva were allowed to make statements in his favour.

The court also allowed a letter from his nine-year-old daughter Masha to be read out asking for her father to be allowed home. The editor of the opposition Novaya Gazeta also said he would give Lebedev work as a financial writer.

But prison official Anatoly Korsunsky told the court that parole "does not make sense" in Lebedev's case as the convict and ex-business partner of Khodorkovsky had committed a string of violations while in jail.

Most recently "he had received two notifications (for bad behaviour). On June 30 he lost his prison uniform and on July 6 he addressed himself in an impolite way to a member of staff," Korsunsky was quoted as saying by the ITAR-TASS news agency.

The court is expected to decide this week on whether Lebedev should be granted parole.

Lawyers have also made a parole request for Khodorkovsky himself, but he is now in prison in the Karelia region and the petition will be heard there at a date which has yet to be announced.

Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, who were arrested in 2003, are serving an eight- year sentence handed down in 2005 for tax evasion and are set to stay in jail until 2016 after receiving another sentence for fraud.

Their supporters claim they are political prisoners punished as Khodorkovsky dared to fund opposition to strongman leader Vladimir Putin but the authorities insist they committed grave financial crimes.

© 2011 AFP

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