"From this point of view, it is possible to say that we have an example of a selective use of our legislation. At the same time, thanks to our laws, it is really hard to run a business in our country without violations."
The legal attacks on Khodorkovsky and his firm began after he started donating money to opposition parties that will compete against pro-Putin forces in December parliamentary elections. Khodorkovsky also has been mentioned as a possible 2008 presidential candidate, although many dismiss that as unrealistic given public antipathy toward the oligarchs. In any case, many analysts have viewed Yukos' legal troubles as a warning to him to stay out of politics.
Anatoly Chubais, a former top Yeltsin-era official who played a key role in privatization and is now a prominent businessman, told reporters Saturday after an emergency meeting of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs that Putin must take a stance.
"Russian business believes that the law enforcement system and its leaders have worsened the situation in society and undermined entrepreneurs' trust in them," Chubais said. "Only Russian President Vladimir Putin's clear and unambiguous position can stop these developments. The absence of such a position will trigger irrevocable consequences that may result in a sharp deterioration in the business climate and a lack of investment appeal in Russia for foreign partners."
Yakov Ryzhak of The Times' Moscow Bureau contributed to this report.