Mikhail Khodorkovsky starts magazine column

The jailed oil magnate and outspoken Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky has become a columnist with the campaigning Russian weekly The New Times.

Khodorkovsky, who was convicted of fraud at his second trial in December, has regularly contributed to Russian opposition newspapers including dailies Novaya Gazeta and Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

In the column, called the Jail People, Khodorkovsky – formerly Russia’s richest man and fiercest critic of Vladimir Putin – tells of the people he has encountered during his jail time: the junkie Kolya, who slit his belly open in protest at police’s offer of favor in return for admitting to an irrelevant theft; or the “drug trader” Sergei, who was framed by police angry at his refusal to turn the real dealers in.

Khodorkovsky and his business partner and associate Platon Lebedev were near the end of an eight-year term for tax evasion when they were convicted of stealing oil from their own company and laundering the proceeds at a trial widely criticized abroad.

“I often feel terror at just how human lives are being wasted, at destinies broken by self and by the soulless System,” Khodorkovsky, who is not due to be released from prison until 2016, wrote in his column.

In May, a Moscow district court upheld his second conviction but cut his sentence by one year.

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