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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Khodorkovsky Jailed in Polluted Chita

Mikhail Khodorkovsky has arrived at a labor camp in a uranium-polluted area of the Far Eastern Chita region, a prison official said Thursday, ending 10 days of speculation about the billionaire's whereabouts after he was removed from a Moscow detention center.

Khodorkovsky, the founder of Yukos, is serving out his eight-year sentence at the remote YaG 14/10 penal colony, more than 5,000 kilometers east of Moscow, said Alexander Pleshkov, head of the Federal Prisons Service's department in the Siberian Federal District, Interfax reported.

"It is a regular labor camp with regular housing conditions," Pleshkov said.

The camp opened in the 1960s, and its inmates helped to build one of the Soviet Union's largest uranium-processing plants, Priargunsky, and to explore the nearby Streltsovskoye uranium-ore deposit, Kommersant reported.

Although inmates no longer work in uranium facilities, the area is heavily contaminated with radioactive waste, and environmentalists have repeatedly expressed concern about the area.

Pleshkov said Khodorkovsky had been placed in mandatory quarantine and would remain there for two more weeks. "Then Khodorkovsky will placed on a camp team and assigned a job," he said, adding that the prison had facilities for sewing, carpentry and metal works.

About 1,000 inmates live in the camp.

Pleshkov said that most inmates were serving sentences for theft and fraud and that the camp did not house prisoners convicted of violent crimes.

"Khodorkovsky will enjoy all the rights and carry out all the duties of an inmate, just like everyone else there," he said. "We don't have any right to treat him differently from the others."

Khodorkovsky's lawyer Genrikh Padva told reporters Thursday that a local lawyer had already visited the businessman in the camp and that his team of lawyers from Moscow and St. Petersburg would travel there soon. Padva said the prison was seven hours by car from the nearest town, Krasnokamensk.

By law, authorities need only to notify a convict's immediate family about where he will be imprisoned, and the notification is sent by mail.

Khodorkovsky's wife, Irina, received the letter from the warden of Moscow's Matrosskaya Tishina detention center on Thursday. A copy of the letter was posted on Khodorkovsky's web site.

The letter, which was signed on Oct. 10 and postmarked Oct. 14, said Khodorkovsky was being sent to a prison in the Chita region, and, if delivered in a timely fashion, was intended to spare his family any worry about his whereabouts. It normally takes one or two days to deliver mail within Moscow.

Speculation about where Khodorkovsky had been sent had been swirling for the past two weeks, and a report last Friday placed him in a model prison camp in the Saratov region.

Khodorkovsky's business partner and co-defendant Platon Lebedev was removed from the detention center at the same time, and he resurfaced Wednesday in a prison in the Yamal-Nenets autonomous district, near the Arctic Circle.

Khodorkovky exhausted the appeals process in September, four months after a Moscow court sentenced him on fraud and tax evasion charges widely seen as the Kremlin's punishment for his political and business ambitions.

Next week, it will be exactly two years since his arrest, leaving Khodorkovsky with six years of his sentence remaining. He could be released early on good behavior after he serves out two-thirds of his sentence.