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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yukos' Nevzlin Says He Is Exiting Politics

Leonid Nevzlin, a key Yukos shareholder and harsh critic of the Kremlin, said he is getting out of politics in an attempt not "to harm or oppose" his jailed business associate and friend Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

In a lengthy interview published in Izvestia on Friday, Nevzlin said he will put his participation in politics on hold at least until the 2007 parliamentary elections and will focus instead on promoting education and may write a book.

Nevzlin, the former rector of the Russian State Humanitarian University who is living in Israel to avoid prosecution at home, openly backed liberal Irina Khakamada in her presidential bid and said last month that he would back her new political party, Free Russia.

"I would like to apologize to those who had expected more from me if I failed to meet their expectations. First of all, I mean Irina Khakamada," Nevzlin was quoted as saying.

Khakamada was unavailable for comment Friday, but a member of Free Russia's organizing committee, Marina Litvinovich, said Nevzlin's decision was understandable. "The connection between Nevzlin's decision and the recently published article by Mikhail Khodorkovsky is clear to me and the rest of us. They are not just business partners and people with similar political views, but they are also friends," Litvinovich was quoted by Interfax as saying.

Nevzlin's interview appeared days after Vedomosti published an essay by Khodorkovsky in which he lashed out at liberal Boris Yeltsin-era policymakers for lining their pockets in privatizations as the population plunged into poverty.

Khodorkovsky on Friday also addressed the "Freedom of Speech" program on NTV through a letter read by host Savik Shuster. He said he decided to write the essay to highlight liberals' failure to take to heart the results of the recent parliamentary and presidential elections, which he said showed the public has a very negative perception of liberals and people like him. "Without an honest and public analysis of the mistakes, any attempt to move forward will be blocked," he wrote.

In the newspaper essay, Khodorkovsky blamed big business for feeding a crony system that led the population to snub liberal parties such as the Union of Right Forces, which Khakamada once co-led and which he helped finance. "I hold Irina Khakamada in high regard, but unlike my partner, Leonid Nevzlin, I refused to sponsor her presidential campaign because I saw in her campaign disturbing adumbrations of falsehood," Khodorkovsky wrote.

Analysts saw Khodorkovsky's remarks as conciliatory and a sign that he may be trying to strike a deal with the Kremlin. "Nevzlin's stance is rather harsh as compared to that of Khodorkovsly's essay," said Andrei Ryabov, a political analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center. "Khodorkovsky in principle is ready to work with the state, while Nevzlin is clearly not."

Nevzlin, who told Izvestia that he would no longer talk to reporters unless Khodorkovsky needed him to, could not be reached for comment Friday.

Political scientist Stanislav Belkovsky said Nevzlin was behind a number of political PR projects financed by Yukos in recent years, one of which aimed to create a negative image of Putin abroad.