Once Russia's richest man, Khodorkovsky was jailed for 10 years before he received a pardon by Putin.

Story highlights

Russia alleges that he ordered the murder of a Siberian town mayor in 1998

The former oil tycoon is one of Putin's biggest critics, calling for regime change

Khodorkovsky has already served 10 years in a Russian prison

CNN  — 

Russia has requested an international arrest warrant for former oil tycoon and Putin-critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky for the alleged murder of a Siberian town mayor.

Khodorkovsky, a loud detractor of President Putin, is wanted for allegedly ordering subordinates to kill the mayor of Nefteyugansk in 1998. Russia’s Investigative Committee say he was attempting to avoid paying taxes for his oil company, Yukos.

Khodorkovsky has already served 10 years in jail after being convicted of fraud and tax evasion, a sentence he maintains was politically motivated. In 2013, he suddenly received a pardon from Putin.

On Wednesday, Russia’s Director of the Investigative Committee Vladimir Markin said, “In the case of someone who has committed a serious crime, it is not important where the accused is hiding, whether it be in Russia and beyond its borders, even in the Antarctic. We are simply duty bound to take all legal measures to achieve his arrest.”

‘They’ve gone mad’

Khodorkovsky, who now resides in Switzerland, responded to the allegations via his website:

“They’ve gone mad. Yesterday I understood that. Searches of neighbors who were ten years old at the time of this case…what else is needed as evidence? An arrest in absentia without any obvious facts, in this situation that must look just fine. What matters most is the safety of those others.”

He told the BBC in an interview on Wednesday that he was considering applying for political asylum in the UK.

Russia has faced international criticism for its treatment of Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man, with countries including the United States accusing it of selective prosecution and abuse of the legal system.

In past statements to CNN, Khodorkovsky has said his prosecution was part of a Kremlin campaign to destroy him and take control of Yukos, the oil company he built in the 1990s.

Khodorkovsky made a fortune from the reforms that resulted in the large-scale privatization of state-owned assets immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and used the wealth of his Yukos oil company to enter Russian opposition politics.