'Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov's statement that it is not necessary to hold people in custody for economic crimes was inappropriate,' said Natalia Vishnyakova, the deputy head of the General Prosecutor's Office's PR department, at a press conference today. She said that such statements could be seen as pressurizing the court in the case of Platon Lebedev, a major shareholder in YUKOS.
Vishnyakova stressed that the General Prosecutor's Office does not intend to review the result of Russia's privatizations and only investigates concrete crimes. 'We are trying to overturn the popular opinion that if you steal a little, you get a small punishment and if you steal a lot, you get off Scot free,' Vishnyakova said. She added that the General Prosecutor's Office views the arrest of Lebedev as appropriate.
Irina Aleshin, the deputy head of the General Prosecutor's Office's serious crime department, said that the decision to hold Lebedev in custody is in accordance with Russian law and the constitution. She said that the Prosecutor's Office believes Lebedev might try to flee if released. He has valid visas for Britain and France, large sums of money deposited in foreign banks and access to private planes.