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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Deripaska Blasts Khodorkovsky, Lauds Putin

Former Yukos chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky became an oligarch through "the support of a fairy godfather" and Russia became a free country under Vladimir Putin, billionaire Oleg Deripaska said in an interview published Monday.

Speaking to Spanish newspaper El Pais, Deripaska offered harsh criticism for the reforms of the 1990s and made a string of accusations about Khodorkovsky.

"Khodorkovsky, for example, didn't serve in the army," Deripaska said. "And I'd like to know why, and he didn't have very good grades."

The Basic Element owner also brought up Khodorkovsky's past as a high-ranking official in the Komsomol, the Communist Party's youth organization.

"There are people who worked, and there are those who, as a member of the Komsomol, found the support of a fairy godfather who gave them everything," Deripaska told the newspaper.

Alexander Temerko, a former deputy chief of Yukos, responded to the interview, suggesting that Khodorkovsky would defend his political convictions even from prison, where he is serving an eight-year sentence on tax charges.

"If, God forbid, Oleg Vladimirovich [Deripaska] were to find himself in such a situation, one could only wish him courage and express the hope that his service in the army would help him bear similar ordeals with just as much dignity" as Khodorkovsky, Temerko said.

The interview is not political, and Deripaska is merely offering his personal opinion on a number of economic issues, his spokesman said. In October, El Pais and other Spanish newspapers said local judge Balthazar Garzon was planning to visit Moscow to speak with Deripaska, whom he suspects of laundering "the Russian mafia's" money in Spain.

Deripaska criticized the reformers of the 1990s, including the recently deceased Yegor Gaidar, who served as Russia's first acting prime minister and "put an end to the planned economy overnight and didn't create anything to replace it."

President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin received much warmer praise. "Our country is much freer than certain other developed democratic countries," he told the newspaper.

He also said he was not an oligarch because he only helps the state and doesn't ask it for anything.

Over the past two years, however, his companies have received significant state assistance. In October 2008, United Company RusAl received a $4.5 billion loan from VEB, and the state bank recently said it was willing to spend 20 billion rubles ($656 million) to buy 3 percent of the company during its January IPO.

The state has also offered guarantees for 20 billion rubles in loans to Deripaska's carmaker, GAZ Group.

Deripaska is now very dependent on the state, political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin said. GAZ is making a not very competitive product, so it is no surprise that Deripaska would give an interview like this, he added.