Exiled Russian opposition figure supports Putin foe for presidency

Kremlin critic and former oil baron Mikhail Khodorkovsky on Saturday threw his support behind Russian President Vladimir Putin's foe Alexei Navalny for Russia's 2018 presidential election.

Khodorkovsky, who was released by Russia in December 2013 after a decade in jail and now lives in exile in Western Europe, also announced his desire to quit the leadership of his Open Russia foundation.

"Today in Russia, there are no legal structures other than Open Russia and the FBK (the Anti-Corruption Fund created by Navalny) proposing a policy different from the one followed by the authorities," Khodorkovsky told a conference in Tallinn, according to Open Russia's website.

Navalny is the Kremlin's main opponent.

The anti-corruption blogger intends to challenge Russian President Vladimir Putin at the next presidential election, but his candidacy could be hampered by his five-year suspended prison sentence for embezzlement.

Khodorkovsky, former head of oil giant Yukos, who served his lengthy jail sentence for tax evasion, announced last September that he would not run for the Russian presidency in 2018 but that he would finance a campaign that offered an alternative to Putin if the president decided to run for a fourth term.

Turning to the leadership of his pro-European Open Russia movement, he added that he intended to step down as its president.

"I think that Russian society is ripe for a model without a figurehead, which is why our organisation is founded on a model in which the president changes each year," he said.