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RUSSIAN TYCOON GETS ANOTHER 14-YEAR JAIL TERM

By NBF News
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IN a trial seen as payback for his defiance of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's power, Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky has bagged another 14 years in prison.

The Associated Press (AP) yesterday said Judge Viktor Danilkin handed down the sentence after convicting Khodorkovsky of stealing oil from his own company and laundering the proceeds.

Khodorkovsky is in the final year of an eight-year prison sentence.

His lawyers say the new sentence is counted from his 2003 arrest and includes his previous term in jail.

Putin is seen as the driving force behind the trial of Khodorkovsky, who challenged him during his presidency.

Putin, eyeing a return to the presidency in 2012, appears unwilling to risk the possibility that a freed Khodorkovsky could help lead his political foes.

Meanwhile, Russian investigators have arrested two men suspected of brutally beating an environmental activist and a government official who is believed to have ordered the attack, and a court has ordered them held in custody at least until the end of the week.

Environmental activist Konstantin Fetisov, who campaigned against a controversial road construction project in the Moscow suburb of Khimki and accused officials of corruption, has been hospitalized since the November attack.

Russia has seen a wave of assaults on journalists and activists, including many connected to the Khimki controversy, and in most cases the perpetrators are never found. In the rare cases when those who carried out the attacks are brought to justice, those who ordered the attacks remain unidentified.

The arrest this week of Andrei Chernyshev, who heads the Khimki municipal property department, suggests that the federal government could be moving to shake up the city government.

All three suspects were taken to a Khimki court on Wednesday for a hearing on investigators' request to keep them in custody pending trial.    The court, however, ruled that the investigators had not yet provided sufficient evidence and gave them until today to do so.

Local activists have been fighting for years against plans to construct a highway through the Khimki forest and open up land along the route for development. Road construction is widely acknowledged to be one of the most corrupt sectors of Russia's economy, with numerous opportunities for kickbacks.

The RIA Novosti news agency said on Wednesday, citing an unidentified investigator, that those arrested could also have been involved in a similar attack two years ago on a Khimki journalist, Mikhail Beketov, who was left brain-damaged and lost a limb.

A fourth suspected attacker also was detained, the state news agency said, citing the same official.

In August, President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the construction suspended so the route could be reassessed, but earlier this month, the Kremlin decided to allow the construction to go ahead along the original route. Those involved in the construction are reported to have high-level government connections.