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Ex-Yukos Chief Calls Charges Against Him 'Absurd'

16 July 2004 -- Mikhail Khodorkovskii, the former chief executive of Russia's oil giant Yukos, today told a Moscow court that the charges brought against him were "absurd."

Khodorkovskii, who has been jailed for nearly eight months, is accused of tax evasion, fraudulent privatization schemes, and forgery. He and co-defendant Platon Lebedev face up to 10 years in jail.

Khodorkovskii's lawyer Genrikh Padva said both men had entered pleas of innocence. "They both stated that they do not agree with the charges. They believe the charges are inconsistent, contradictory, and do not correspond with reality," he said. "They both said that they will try to prove their innocence in the course of the trial."

In his first public response to the charges since his arrest, Khodorkovskii today blamed the Russian state for attempting to make him pay for mistakes made during the mid-1990s privatization.

Russian authorities claim the legal actions against both men are part of an anticorruption drive. Critics say the move is retaliation for Khodorkovskii's political ambitions.

(ITAR-TASS/RIA-Novosti/lenta ru/AP)