Mikhail Kasyanov has for the first time disclosed details of a closed-door conversation he claims he had with Vladimir Putin in which the then president revealed political motives for the state`s legal pursuit of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the jailed former Yukos tycoon.
Throwing his backing behind Khodorkovsky's suit in the European Court of Human Rights, Kasyanov said he had laid out in an affidavit filed to the court in Strasbourg last week Putin`s explanation in July 2003 for the rising state pressure on Khodorkovsky and his Yukos oil company.
Kasyanov said he had pressed Putin for an explanation many times about the July 2003 arrest of Platon Lebedev, Khodorkovsky's closest associate, and about mounting state pressure on Khodorkovsky as prosecutors began to investigate tax fraud claims.
Putin had refused to answer, he said, but at one point in July 2003 in a private meeting inside Putin`s office in the Kremlin Palace, the president told him that Khodorkovsky had crossed a line by financing the communists without his permission even as he was financing the liberal Yabloko and Union of Right Forces parties in line with Kremlin orders. "He did not say any more."
Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesman, declined to comment on the claims.
Kasyanov's statement could add weight to Khodorkovsky's appeal against the Russian government in the European Court of Human Rights claiming that his arrest in 2003 was politically motivated.
It could also strengthen the case lodged in the same court by Yukos shareholders claiming they had been stripped of their holdings in the oil company via the government`s pursuit of multi-billion dollar back tax claims which led to its bankruptcy.
The ECHR accepted the case in January despite the fact that Yukos has already been liquidated under Russian law, and a first set of hearings is set for November.