The Corner

A New Khodorkovsky? Russian Billionaire Placed under House Arrest

The chairman of the conglomerate controlling one of Russia’s last remaining private oil companies has been placed under house arrest.

Vladimir Yevtushenkov, who chairs the Russian conglomerate Sistema, has been accused of money laundering by the Russian Federal Investigative Committee. Sistema owns over 70 percent of Bashneft, one of the few Russian oil companies not controlled by the state.

The arrest has been criticized by many as politically motivated and follows speculation that the state-controlled company Rosneft had recently attempted to purchase Bashneft. (Rosneft is Russia’s largest oil company and chaired by Putin ally Igor Sechin.)

The Yevtushenkov affair is reminiscent of the 2003 arrest and imprisonment of Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, whose own oil-and-gas company, Yukos, was subsequently dismantled, with the majority of its assets given over to Rosneft. Khodorkovsky was released from prison last December following a pardon by Putin, and now lives in Switzerland. He commented on the case earlier today:

Khodorkovsky told the daily “Vedomosti” that he believes Sechin, a powerful ally of President Vladimir Putin, wants to avert the threat of a decline in oil production by taking control of Bashneft, an oil company at the center of the case against AFK Sistema chairman Vladimir Yevtushenkov.

Khodorkovsky said “this is the very same Igor Ivanovich [Sechin], who has gotten no smarter in 11 years and may have gotten even greedier.”

Khodorkovsky has accused Sechin of engineering his 2003 arrest and the downfall of his company, Yukos, whose main assets ended up in Rosneft’s hands and helped it become Russia’s biggest oil producer.

Nat Brown — Nat Brown is a deputy web editor at Foreign Affairs and a former deputy managing editor of National Review Online.

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