However much the likes of the Guardian try to portray Mikhail Borisovich Khodorkovsky as a champion of freedom who suffered under the yoke of government oppression before escaping tyranny for the freedom of the West, the fact remains he was and is more Capone than Solzhenitsyn; a greedy robber-baron and willing tool of US hegemony, who exploited his country’s darkest hour, cheated his workforce and eventually served a well-deserved term in prison for fraud, tax-evasion and money-laundering, before scuttling out of his mother-land to live the life of a celebrated “pro-democracy” exile.
It’s less widely understood that there are even darker things being lad at his door than corruption, theft and opportunistic lying for profit. Murder for example. But yes, in 2015, Russian Interpol put Khodorkovsky on a wanted list in connection with the murder of a Siberian city mayor in 1998.
Vladimir Petukhov was the first mayor of oil-rich Nefteyugansk. Popular locally and considered to be a man of the people, he was shot dead on his way in to work, June 26, 1998. A subsequent criminal investigation described the killing as an assassination, and implicated two members of Khodorkovsky’s Yukos Oil Company in a plot to be rid of the Mayor.
A court eventually sentenced Alexei Pichugin to life in prison for multiple murders and attempted murders. His boss Khodorkovsky was not accused of, or prosecuted for, any involvement, though many have claimed he may have known more than he claimed. According to Pravda:
In May 1998 Petukhov accused Yukos of tax evasion, which resulted in the shortage of funds in the local budget to pay wages to employees of state-run enterprises. The mayor went on a hunger strike demanding chairmen of municipal and district tax offices be dismissed from their positions and a criminal case against Yukos be filed on counts of tax evasion.
Vladimir Petukhov was shot dead on June 26 on his way to work.
Local residents took to the streets soon after the assassination of their mayor. Many attempted to seize the local office of Yukos. The Office of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation brought assassination charges against an employee of Yukos’s security service, Aleksei Pichugn, only in 2005.
Petukov’s wife, Farida Islamova was and is convinced Mikhail Borisovitch was involved in the plot to murder her husband, and for many years she has been trying to have him brought to justice. She has even written a book – Khodorkovsky, who killed my Husband?, given an English language translation in 2014. In it she says:
Vladimir Petukhov, Mayor of Nefteyugansk, was shot down on his way to work, not far from the municipal administration building. The killer fired several submachine gun bursts from the cover of nearby bushes. Later on, the investigators would find 18 empty cases at the crime scene. In the face of such fire-power, the unarmed security man, Vyacheslav Kokoshkin, was helpless, he himself took several bullets, has never recovered from his wounds… At that time he was only 30 years old, and still today lives with one of these bullets – a sort of a message from Khodorkovsky – in his body…..
Vladimir Petukhov died in the hospital several hours after the attempt. That was a planned contract assassination…
Unsurprisingly, Farida has had little success in getting the English-language media to take interest in her story. No mainstream outfit has covered her book. Her wait for justice drags on as the western media continues to fete Mikhail Borisovich, embezzler of state funds, tax-evader and suspected murderer, as a symbol of the values they hold most dear.
Then again – maybe that’s not as stupid as it first sounds.