Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the billionaire oil tycoon who was sentenced to nine years' imprisonment in a politically charged trial this year, said Wednesday he will run for a seat in the national parliament.
In a statement on a Web site maintained by his supporters, Khodorkovsky said he will contest a seat in a Moscow district that is being chosen in a by-election that is expected to be held this year.
Khodorkovsky, once the head of the oil giant Yukos, was convicted of fraud and tax evasion in a case that many observers said was Kremlin-directed punishment for his funding of opposition parties.
Russian law allows a convicted person to run for office if his case is under appeal, as Khodorkovsky's is.
Central Elections Commission chief Alexander Veshnyakov said that no date has been set for the election, but the commission was considering calling it for Dec. 4, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.
Khodorkovsky's appeal of his conviction is to be heard in September, and his attorney Yuri Shmidt alleged last week that the appeals process was being improperly accelerated to block his running for parliament.
"I am running not for entrance to the parliament deputies' dining room or to the Cabinet, but for the right of every resident of Russia to say publicly: the current Kremlin regime has exhausted itself and its days are trickling away," Khodorkovsky said in the statement.
He said Russia needs "a new generation of leaders who are not thinking of getting a shameful place at the nomenklatura's feed-trough, but of the fate of Russia in the third millennium."
Khodorkovsky, once estimated to be Russia's richest man, was among the so-called oligarchs who became enormously wealthy amid the shadowy sell-off of state-run enterprises in the 1990s.
Although he is regarded with suspicion by many ordinary Russians whose savings were eaten up in the post-Soviet economic chaos, Khodorkovsky in recent years has made efforts to reposition himself as a reformer. Under his leadership, Yukos adopted Western-style accounting practices and became regarded as one of the most transparent companies in a country noted for murky business practices.
Khodorkovsky is believed to have run afoul of the Kremlin by flouting a reported unspoken agreement under which authorities would lay off investigating the oligarchs' wealth in exchange for the tycoons staying out of politics. Khodorkovsky, however, funded opposition parties and started a foundation aimed at promoting civil society.
He was arrested in October 2003 in a dramatic operation in which special forces stormed his plane on the tarmac of a Siberian airport.
As his detention and trial ground on, Yukos was hit by billions of dollars in back tax bills. The company's major production unit was auctioned off last year by the state to partially meet the tax arrears — being sold to a shell company that a few days later was taken over by the state oil company Rosneft.
Veshnyakov said that if Khodorkovsky were to win a parliament seat, he would not be guaranteed immunity from prosecution and would be imprisoned or kept in prison if his sentence subsequently took effect, the RIA-Novosti news agency reported.