Exiled Former Oligarch Mihail Khodorkovsky Visits Finland Today

Exiled Former Oligarch Mihail Khodorkovsky Visits Finland Today

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a Russian former oligarch and a prominent critic of the Russian regime and President Vladimir Putin, is participating in a demonstration in Helsinki today, marking the second anniversary of the war in Ukraine. The demonstration is set to kick off at Kansalaistor at 2 p.m. and is organized by the Democratic Community of Russian-Speakers in Finland, a group that has consistently protested against the war over the past two years.

“We have a campaign for Russians around the world to demonstrate against the war, Putin and the regime,” shares Irina Vesikko, the chairman of the organization. Khodorkovsky, who has been living in exile since 2013, is a significant figure in the critique against the Russian administration and its president.

Born in Moscow in 1963, Khodorkovsky developed an interest in politics and business at a young age. His career path took him from a communist youth organization in the 1980s to a successful computer importer. Towards the end of the decade, he founded the Menatep bank, which capitalized on the collapse of the Soviet Union by purchasing shares of privatized companies at a low cost, making Khodorkovsky a millionaire.

In the 1990s, Khodorkovsky purchased the oil company Yukos, which quickly grew into one of Russia’s largest oil companies. During Boris Yeltsin’s reign as Russian president, Khodorkovsky held the position of the country’s deputy minister of energy.

By the turn of the millennium, Khodorkovsky had become the richest man in Russia. However, his fortunes changed after a televised debate with Putin, where he demanded the eradication of official corruption. This led to a criminal investigation into Khodorkovsky’s dealings and his subsequent arrest in 2003 on charges of extensive fraud and tax evasion. He disputed these charges, labelling the investigation as a political witch hunt.

Khodorkovsky spent eight years in prison from 2005. His sentence was extended in 2010, when he was found guilty of stealing oil from his own company. Yukos, the company that had made Khodorkovsky a billionaire, went bankrupt during his incarceration, and parts of it were sold to state-owned companies.

Putin pardoned Khodorkovsky in 2013, but Khodorkovsky maintained his innocence regarding the economic crimes he was accused of. After his release, he fled to Germany and later settled in London, transitioning from business to social activism. He founded the Open Russia movement to support Russian opposition politicians.

Khodorkovsky’s financial position was bolstered by a decision by an Irish court in 2016 that unfroze one hundred million euros of his money, which had been seized due to embezzlement charges in Russia. Khodorkovsky declared that he would use a portion of the released funds to support the activities of the Open Russia movement.

However, Russia banned the Open Russia movement in 2017, citing it as a threat to the country’s constitutional basis and security. Operating an unwanted organization in Russia can lead to fines or imprisonment. The Open Russia movement announced in May 2021 that it would cease its activities to prevent persecution of its members.

The Russian authorities have also hindered the activities of media outlets linked to Khodorkovsky. In 2021, a human rights organization associated with him and two media outlets announced that they were closing down after authorities blocked access to their websites.

Khodorkovsky has consistently criticized Russia’s attack on Ukraine. In May 2022, the Russian Ministry of Justice classified Khodorkovsky as a “foreign agent”, alleging that he received funding from Ukraine.

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