MOSCOW, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- Apartments of members in the opposition movement Open Russia have been searched in connection with a criminal case against former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the group said Tuesday.
Khodorkovsky, former chief of the Yukos oil company and formerly Russia's richest man, resides in Switzerland. After a 1998 embezzlement and money laundering conviction and nine-year jail sentence, he was pardoned by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2013. Khodorkovsky founded the Open Russia movement in 2014 with goals of fair elections and a government by rule of law; in early December he was declared a suspect in the 1998 killing of Vladimir Petukhov, mayor of the Siberian city of Nefteyugansk.
The Investigative Committee, a Russian government agency roughly equivalent to the United States' FBI, confirmed a search of Open Russia's Moscow office in connection with the murder case.
"Indeed, investigative actions are held as part of the now-defunct oil giant Yukos case opened back in 2003," Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said.
Open Russia lawyer Sergei Badamshin said the homes of seven employees were raided, and an online message from the group said searches were conducted "in the apartments of Open Russia employees, and Mikhail Khodorkovsky's spokesperson Olga Pispanen."
Khodorkovsky has been intensely critical of Putin, and in a July interview said Putin is "irrational and unpredictable" and "sees himself as the chieftain of the post-American world."