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Last Updated: Friday, 31 October, 2003, 17:27 GMT
Porridge for the Russian oligarch
Matrosskaya Tishina prison
Matrosskaya Tishina: 1991 coup leaders were held here

The Yukos boss, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, is being held in a notoriously overcrowded Moscow jail - but his conditions are reported to be better than those of many other inmates.

Mr Khodorkovsky's new prison diet is a far cry from the refined cuisine that Russia's wealthiest tycoons would normally enjoy.

It includes meat-and-rice soup, kasha - Russian porridge - vegetables and stewed fruit, justice ministry spokesman Boris Kalyagin said.

"I wouldn't say it is restaurant quality," he added.

But the billionaire tycoon, arrested last Saturday, has been moved to a better cell in the Matrosskaya Tishina prison, Mr Kalyagin said.

'No complaints'

According to his lawyer Anton Drel, Mr Khodorkovsky "has no complaints" about his conditions.

Mr Drel said he had asked the court to release the tycoon on bail or with a guarantee that he would not flee the country, or transfer him to house arrest.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky
The Yukos chief has been moved to a less crowded cell
Matrosskaya Tishina is the prison where the plotters of the abortive 1991 coup against the last Soviet President, Mikhail Gorbachev, were detained.

Mr Khodorkovsky is reported to be sharing a five-metre by three-metre (16.5 foot by 10 foot) cell with two other inmates.

According to Mr Kalyagin, his cellmates are by no means "hardened criminals".

The cell has a television set and refrigerator.

It also has a toilet and shower separate from the communal facilities used by other prisoners, Mr Kalyagin said.

Mr Khodorkovsky can exercise in an enclosed courtyard for up to an hour a day, the spokesman said.

According to Russian law, suspects can be held for two months before trial, but a court must approve any extension of the term.

Mr Drel said he had received permission to visit his client for an unlimited period.

He said his client had asked to have some Russian history books brought to him.

Mr Khodorkovsky has also received a package from relatives containing fruit and chocolate, as well as a tracksuit and training shoes, Russian television reports.

He is being held on suspicion of tax evasion and defrauding the state.

One of his business colleagues, Platon Lebedev, is in the same jail.

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