Violinist Gidon Kremer has issued a spirited attack via CNN against Russian authorities over the treatment of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev. Khodorkovsky, once Russia's richest man, and Lebedev, his close associate, have been in prison since 2003 on charges of fraud and tax evasion respectively. They were recently convicted on new charges of theft and money laundering, a decision that led Amnesty International to declare the two businessmen prisoners of conscience.

Kremer, who was in Strasbourg on 5 July to perform at a charity concert for human rights in Russia, labelled the charges against Khodorkovsky as 'ridiculous'. He accused the Russian leadership of willful ignorance of the law and said: 'Without legal guarantees, everybody in the state could find themselves unlawfully charged with crimes they didn't commit.'

Khodorkovsky, said Kremer, was a 'very talented and thoughtful man' who wanted to use his wealth to improve society, and who 'became a threat to a system that's always been known for totalitarianism and violence'. The violinist added that artists have a duty to 'raise our voices in a chorus of opposition to drown out those who seek to humiliate and punish men like Khodorkovsky'.