MOSCOW – Former Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovsky has pleaded not guilty in a Moscow court to charges of theft and embezzlement, news agencies reported.
Khodorkovsky has been imprisoned since 2003, and in 2005 was sentenced to eight years in prison on charges of fraud and tax evasion. His plea of not guilty is in response to a second set of charges of financial crimes.
Khodorkovsky and business partner Platon Lebedev are accused of embezzling more than $25 billion worth of oil from subsidiaries of his Yukos oil company and laundering most of the proceeds.
The charges against Khodorkovsky have been widely seen as part of a Kremlin-backed campaign to punish him for challenging Prime Minister
Vladimir Putin during his presidency, as well as being part of efforts to increase state control over oil revenues.
Lebedev condemned the conduct of the case, saying: “I have never stolen anything or raided anything in my life. To confess to a crime that has not taken place is ridiculous."
Compiled from agency reports