Khodorkovsky Gets Solitary for Interview

Jailed businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been placed in solitary confinement in a Siberian prison for giving an interview to the Russian version of Esquire magazine, his lawyers said Thursday.

Khodorkovsky, who is currently being held in a prison in the eastern Siberian city of Chita while awaiting trial on fresh charges of embezzlement and money laundering, was given 12 days in solitary confinement for the interview, Khodorkovsky's lawyers said in a statement.

"The Esquire publication was used as an excuse for yet another sanction," the statement said.

Khodorkovsky, once the country's richest man, has served nearly five years of an eight-year sentence on tax and fraud charges and was denied parole in August over what his lawyers said were fabricated violations of prison rules.

Khodorkovsky's lawyer Vadim Klyuvgand said Thursday that the purported infraction would be used as an excuse not to release the businessman early, given his Oct. 15 parole hearing. "It goes beyond the realm of decency," he said.

Khodorkovsky gave the lengthy interview to popular writer Grigory Chkhartishvili, who writes detective novels under the pen name Boris Akunin, which was published in this month's issue of Esquire.

"Prison authorities who doled out the punishment don't have any proof that Khodorkovsky wrote letters to Akunin," Klyugvand said.

The Russian version of Esquire is published by Independent Media Sanoma Magazines, parent company of The Moscow Times.

Federal Prison Service spokesman Valery Zaitsev said Thursday in Moscow that he could neither confirm nor deny the report due to the six-hour time difference with Chita.

Khodorkovsky's lawyers denied that he broke any prison rules on sending and receiving letters. "Khodorkovsky did not write or receive any 'illegal' letters, that is to say, there is no proof that he broke this ban," they said in the statement.

Previously, Khodorkovsky has given interviews to publications including Vedomosti and The Moscow Times through his lawyers, who passed on questions and answers.

The Esquire interview was carried out through Khodorkovsky's lawyers, who read out questions to their client and wrote down his answers, Chkhartishvili said in e-mailed comments Thursday. "Specifically, because we didn't want to break the law, this conversation took a very long time, several months," he said.

Ironically, Khodorkovsky said in the Esquire interview that he had been placed in solitary confinement on several occasions as punishment for his interviews and articles that have appeared in various publications, but that he was no longer afraid of such a reprimand.

"When I was in the prison camp, after every article I was put in solitary confinement," Khodorkovsky said. "Maybe it was a coincidence. But I don't care. I've given up being afraid. It's true, after the Financial Times interview, that didn't happen. Maybe they've gotten smarter? Or the times have changed?"

Khodorkovsky has also been punished for other infractions, including drinking tea outside the permitted area.

Despite their name, isolation cells can hold two to five prisoners, who are given no bedding in the daytime and must sit on a concrete bench, former prisoner Viktor Golikov said Thursday.

Khodorkovsky's lawyers plan to file an appeal with the Investigative Committee, Klyuvgand said.

Asked if Khodorkovsky would continue to give interviews, Klyuvgand said: "We will do everything that is in his interests, and is not against the law, whatever the prison administration thinks about it."

On Thursday, Novaya Gazeta published a message from Khodorkovsky congratulating his parents on their 50th wedding anniversary.

Staff Writer Svetlana Osadchuk contributed to this report.