Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky says he has been formally accused in a criminal case that, according to associates, involves the 1998 killing of a Siberian mayor that President Vladimir Putin has previously suggested was ordered by the self-exiled Kremlin critic.
In a December 7 tweet, Khodorkovsky, the former head of the Russian oil major Yukos, posted a scan of a summons from Russia’s federal Investigative Committee ordering him to appear for questioning on December 11 as "the accused" in a criminal case.
A Khodorkovsky spokeswoman, Kulle Pispanen, was quoted by Bloomberg on December 8 as saying the exiled former oligarch would not submit to any questioning.
The summons did not indicate the nature of the accusations against Khodorkovsky, who has resided in Switzerland since his release from a Russian prison in 2013 after serving a more than decade in prison on financial-crimes convictions widely seen as politically motivated.
But Vladimir Kara-Murza, Jr., a coordinator for Khodorkovsky’s nongovernmental organization Open Russia, told RFE/RL on December 7 that the summons was "100 percent" connected to the authorities' reopened investigation of the 1998 slaying of Vladimir Petukhov, mayor of the oil town of Nefteyugansk.
The Investigative Committee could not immediately be reached for comment and did not immediately comment on the summons published by Khodorkovsky, the authenticity of which could not immediately be verified.
Pispanen confirmed the summons was related to the Petukhov case. Khodorkovsky has not had a lawyer in Russia since his release two years ago, she added.
The law enforcement agency announced in June that it had obtained new evidence allowing it to reopen a probe into Petukhov’s murder, with spokesman Vladimir Markin saying Khodorkovsky "might have personally ordered this murder and a number of other extremely serious crimes."
Former Yukos security chief Aleksei Pichugin is currently serving a life sentence after being convicted of organizing Petukhov's killing and other murders. He and his supporters insist he is innocent.
In October 2012, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled that Pichugin's rights to liberty and security and his right to a fair trial had been violated, and ordered Russia to pay him 9,500 euros in compensation.
Yukos's main asset was located in Nefteyugansk at the time of Petukhov's killing.
The Investigative Committee in August questioned Khodorkovsky’s 82-year-old father in connection with the reopened probe, a move the former oil baron said is aimed at pressuring him and his family.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow on December 8 that Putin was unaware of any suspicions that Khodorkovsky was involved in Petukhov’s killing when he pardoned the businessman.
"Of course, there was no [such information], and there could not have been any," he was quoted by Interfax as saying. "The information that has emerged now was not available then, and it became the reason for investigators to take certain action."
Peskov’s comments, however, appear inconsistent with the public record.
During his annual televised question-and-answer session in 2010, Putin suggested Khodorkovsky had blood on his hands and implied that he was behind Petukhov's killing.
"What, do you think that the chief of security committed these murders on his own initiative?" Putin said, referring to Pichugin.
Khodorkovsky and his supporters say his imprisonment was part of a Kremlin campaign to seize his company's oil assets and punish him for supporting opponents.
He left Russia after he was pardoned by Putin in 2013. From abroad he has worked to support Russia’s liberal opposition parties and movements.
Khodorkovsky wrote on Twitter that the criminal case is a "sad attempt to change the subject of conversation."