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Russian Opposition Demonstrates Solidarity With Khodorkovsky


Mikhail Khodorkovsky (left) and co-defendant Platon Lebedev stand behind a glass wall in court in Moscow in May 2011.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky (left) and co-defendant Platon Lebedev stand behind a glass wall in court in Moscow in May 2011.

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- Opposition activists have rallied in St. Petersburg to demonstrate support for jailed former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was arrested exactly eight years ago, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Khodorkovsky, the former CEO of the oil giant Yukos, and his close associate Platon Lebedev were convicted and sentenced for tax evasion in 2005. In December 2010, Moscow's Khamovnichesky court found them guilty in a second trial of stealing oil and laundering the proceeds. They are due to remain in jail until 2016.

Members of the United Civil Front's St. Petersburg branch staged a series of individual pickets on the city's Issaky Square. Dozens of activists took up positions 50 meters apart holding portraits of Khodorkovsky behind bars and a placard saying, "Free Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev."

The leader of the United Civil Front in St. Petersburg, Olga Kurnosova, told RFE/RL it was necessary "to remind everyone in the country about things like Khodorkovsky's case."

"There is such apathy in Russian society now, especially after [Prime Minister Vladimir] Putin announced his intention to run for president again, that it is important to stick to these things now," Kurnosova said.

Kurnosova said actions in support of Khodorkovsky were being held in many other cities and towns across the world. She added that her organization would continue holding such actions until Khodorkovsky was released.

Khodorkovsky and Lebedev deny any wrongdoing and say that the cases against them are politically motivated.

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