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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Prison Says It Has Moved Lebedev Out of Solitary

Federal Prison Service chief Yury Kalinin said that former Menatep chairman Platon Lebedev had been transferred from solitary confinement to his normal cell Thursday evening, bringing his seven-day punishment to an end, Interfax reported.

But Anton Drel, a lawyer for Lebedev's business partner, former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, said he and his client were still in the dark over whether this was true. Khodorkovsky would not end the hunger strike he began in solidarity with Lebedev's solitary confinement until the transfer was confirmed, Drel said.

"If Khodorkovsky hears of this, then he will end his hunger strike," he said. It was unclear late Thursday whether Khodorkovsky had seen the 8 p.m. newscast on Rossia state television that reported Lebedev's transfer.

Khodorkovsky went on hunger strike, refusing both food and water, on Friday evening as soon as he heard Lebedev had been transferred to a solitary confinement cell that day, Drel said. Prison officials said they had put Lebedev in solitary for refusing to take a daily walk and being rude to prison staff, but Khodorkovsky said he believed his friend's transfer was punishment for an article and an interview that appeared in Vedomosti in which Khodorkovsky lashed out at Putin's rule.

Khodorkovsky's and Lebedev's imprisonment for tax evasion and fraud is widely seen as Kremlin retribution for Khodorkovsky's political ambitions.

Doctors checked Khodorkovsky's health on Thursday and confirmed he showed signs of being on a hunger strike, Drel said. Earlier, prison officials had denied Khodorkovsky had stopped eating or drinking and claimed he had bought 4,200 rubles' ($140) worth of food on Tuesday.

Drel said officials were trying to cover up Khodorkovsky's hunger strike, and that Khodorkovsky had bought the food for his cellmates, not for himself. "It's like George Orwell's 1984: 'Peace is War' and 'War is Peace,'" he said, citing the slogans used by Big Brother in Orwell's famous novel. "It's not like in the times of Andrei Sakharov, when they force-fed dissidents on hunger strike -- it's worse. They're just saying there's no hunger strike."

Drel said Khodorkovsky looked terrible when he saw him Thursday and could probably only last two more days if he continued refusing food and water. "Two more days and he just won't get up," he said.

The For Human Rights watchdog on Thursday accused Kalinin and federal prison authorities of indifference to systematic abuses and torture, and called for public oversight of detention facilities, The Associated Press reported.

Lev Ponomaryov, the group's chairman, said the prison system was being run in a similar way to the Soviet-era gulag.