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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Khodorkovsky Set to Face New Charges Next Week

Prosecutors will file new charges against Mikhail Khodorkovsky next week, just months before the former Yukos chief, now serving an eight-year sentence, becomes eligible for parole, his lawyer said Thursday.

"We don't know what the charges are yet, but they will be filed on Monday at a 2 p.m. hearing," Khodorkovsky's lawyer Anton Drel said.

Prosecutor General Yury Chaika said last month that Khodorkovsky and his associate Platon Lebedev would soon face charges of money laundering and embezzlement. The two men were transferred in December to a pretrial detention center in Chita while prosecutors prepared the new case.

A lawyer for Lebedev, Yelena Liptser, said her client would also face new charges at Monday's hearing. Both Liptser and Drel declined to comment further on the charges.

Prosecutors have claimed that between 2000 and 2003, Yukos officials illegally transferred $13 billion in crude oil revenues out of the country through two offshore subsidiaries.

Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were sentenced in May 2005 to eight years in prison on charges of fraud and tax evasion. They become eligible for parole after serving half their terms, including pretrial detention. Lebedev was arrested in May 2003 and Khodorkovsky in October of that year.

"In my opinion, bringing a new case against Mikhail Khodorkovsky will help the leadership solve the 'problem' of his parole," Khodorkovsky's former lawyer, Yury Schmidt, said in an interview published Thursday in Novaya Gazeta.

Both Khodorkovsky and Lebedev maintain that the charges against them are politically motivated. The legal attack on Yukos dismantled what was once Russia's largest oil company a few months before Khodorkovsky was expected to sell a large stake to a U.S. oil major.

The company was declared bankrupt last year and its main assets sold off. A remaining 183 assets, including refineries and two large oil production units, Tomskneft and Samaraneftegaz, are scheduled to be auctioned off this year.

"There is no such thing as a coincidence in Russia; this is one of the things we have learned from the Yukos case," said Stephen O'Sullivan, an oil and gas analyst at Deutsche UFG. "This could create an environment where others would be unwilling to bid for assets."

Both Rosneft and Gazprom are reported to be interested in Tomskneft, Samaraneftegaz and a range of other assets soon to be put up for auction.

"The Putin administration still sees these individuals as significant political and economic figures who should be locked away for as long as possible, if not forever," said Denis Maslov of Eurasia Group.