As the jet, crossing Siberia, made a refueling stop in Novosibirsk Saturday, heavy trucks blocked its path. Two busloads of armed troopers rushed aboard and state security police whisked away a tall man in metal-rimmed glasses. Within hours, the Prosecutor General's Office in Moscow charged him with violating seven articles of the criminal code, including fraud, forgery, embezzlement and tax evasion. By the end of the day, a district court issued an order for his pretrial detention.
A terrorist ringleader? No, this is how Vladimir Putin's Russia treats Mikhail Khodorkovsky, head of YukosSibneft, Russia's largest oil producer and the world's fourth-largest oil giant with a market value of over $40 billion. The detention sent ripples throughout Russia's political and business worlds. Anatoly Chubais, CEO of UES, Russia's power-grid monopoly, called it an "extremely dangerous development ... that only personal intervention on the part of President Putin can now arrest."
Yet Putin seemed unlikely to intervene. Earlier this year, when he spoke against "some oligarchs" getting too big for their britches, most assumed he meant Khodorkovsky. Western investors are out in force in Moscow these days. But this arrest is a reminder that business as usual in Russia is still awfully unusual