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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'Human' Billionaire to Read and Write

Itar-TassA view of the isolated YaG 14/10 prison, where Mikhail Khodorkovsky is to sleep in a 160-inmate dormitory and, at his request, visit with a priest on Friday.
Crime bosses jailed in the same remote prison as Mikhail Khodorkovsky described him as being "human," while Khodorkovsky himself has subscribed to about 100 newspapers and magazines and plans to write a dissertation during the remaining six years of his sentence.

After several days in quarantine, Khodorkovsky on Monday was to join the 960 other inmates of the YaG 14/10 camp in the Far East region of Chita. Much in his life now will depend on how the most influential inmates -- jailed crime bosses -- size him up.

Kommersant reported some reassuring signs from behind the five concentric perimeters of barbed wire and high-voltage fences surrounded by men and dogs.

"While in quarantine, the guys said that he spoke well to people and behaved normally. The guys believe there is a human side to him," an unidentified inmate told an unidentified crime boss who lives in the closest town to the prison, Krasnokamensk, Kommersant reported.

The state spends 65.44 rubles ($2.30) per day on each inmate in the camp, with 35 rubles going toward food, the head of the Chita regional branch of the Federal Prisons Service, Yury Yakushevsky, said Monday.

"All inmates eat together in one mess hall. They cook food and bake bread themselves," Yakushevsky said, Interfax reported. "Today's menu includes bread, cereal and meat."

The inmates leave their bunk beds in dormitories that house 160 men each at 6 a.m. and return at 10 p.m. They are allowed to watch television for two hours each day, and those who do not work in the camp's sewing shop and pigsties have to spend two hours cleaning and making repairs on the premises.

The prison does not have enough jobs, and only one-third of the inmates work, Kommersant said, citing prison officials. Khodorkovsky will not be forced to work.

Yakushevsky said Khodorkovsky felt well and read frequently. "He brought two trunks filled with books with him to write a dissertation," he said.

Krasnokamensk-based lawyer Natalya Terekhova, so far the only lawyer who has seen Khodorkovsky in the prison, said he had subscribed to about 100 newspapers and magazines and asked her to arrange a meeting with a priest, Kommersant reported.

A local priest who served a four-year sentence for spreading anti-communist material in the same prison in the 1970s was expected to visit Khodorkovsky on Friday, Izvestia said.

Khodorkovsky, the founder of Yukos and once Russia's richest man, was sentenced to eight years in prison in a case that many consider the Kremlin's punishment for his political and business ambitions. He has already spent two years in custody.

Yakushevsky said Khodorkovsky would probably have to serve the full six remaining years.

By law, convicts can win early release for good behavior after serving two-thirds of their term.

Meanwhile, local authorities on Monday denied that radiation levels at the prison posed a health hazard, Interfax reported. Khodorkovsky's lawyers and family had expressed concern that the prison was located some 15 kilometers from uranium ore mines and even closer to a uranium-processing plant. Environmentalists have said the area is heavily contaminated.