On July 2, 2003, Khodorkovsky’s business associate Platon Lebedev was arrested in a Moscow hospital where he was receiving treatment. He was charged with fraud and tax evasion. Many perceived this to be a warning shot fired at Khodorkovsky to force him to flee the country. But, aware of the dangers, Khodorkovsky nevertheless decided to stay in Russia. He was quoted as saying that “I will not become a political exile. ”

In a predawn raid on October 25, 2003, armed Russian commandos stormed a Yukos chartered plane refuelling on the tarmac of a Siberian airport. Mikhail Khodorkovsky was arrested at gunpoint. He was ostensibly being arrested to appear as a witness in an investigation underway in Moscow, but within hours after being delivered to the authorities there who sought to question him, Khodorkovsky was charged with fraud and tax evasion.

Khodorkovsky’s arrest occurred just prior to Russia’s December 2003 parliamentary election, and the March 2004 presidential election, thereby eliminating him from active engagement in the political arena.