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Russian oil tycoon in single cell after attack

Jailed Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky will be moved to a cell on his own to ensure his safety after an alleged knife attack by another inmate, the head of Russia's prison service was quoted on Tuesday as saying.
/ Source: Reuters

Jailed Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky will be moved to a cell on his own to ensure his safety after an alleged knife attack by another inmate, the head of Russia's prison service was quoted on Tuesday as saying.

Khodorkovsky's lawyers said he needed stitches after being attacked last week while he was sleeping. The prison service said the lawyers had blown up the incident and he simply had a scuffle after an argument with a young cell mate.

"To stop all the speculation relating to the convict Khodorkovsky, including about the threat to his life, we decided to transfer him to a single cell," Interfax news agency quoted Yuri Kalinin, head of the prison service, as saying.

"There he will be safe."

Khodorkovsky is serving an eight-year sentence for fraud and tax evasion at a prison near the Russian border with China.

Kalinin said Khodorkovsky had partially provoked the incident with the fellow inmate.

"A probe of the incident is still continuing. But I can say that Khodorkovsky himself to some extent provoked this situation," he said, according to Interfax.

He gave no further details except to say that the former businessman may have got too close to the inmate.

Once ranked as Russia's richest man, Khodorkovsky made his fortune in the 1990s, gaining control of YUKOS, one of the stars of the Russian oil industry.

Arrested at gunpoint in 2003 and convicted last May, he had an appeal thrown out in September.

Khodorkovsky said the charges were part of a plan by Kremlin officials to take control of YUKOS, which was brought to its knees by massive back-tax claims and the state auction of its main production unit, later bought by a state company.