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    Detained ex-Yukos vice chief diagnosed with both AIDS and cancer

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    MOSCOW, January 31 (RIA Novosti) - Former Yukos executive Vasily Aleksanyan, being held in custody in Moscow, has been diagnosed with both AIDS and cancer, his lawyers announced on Thursday.

    Lawyers have repeatedly asked to stop hearings on Aleksanyan's case and transfer him to a medical facility for in-ward treatment. The former vice president of the now liquidated Russian oil company faces charges of embezzlement and money laundering.

    Defense lawyer Yelena Lvova said: "A biopsy of lymph nodes indicated that Aleksanyan has a malignant growth - a lymphoma. This is a cause of great shock and stress for us and for him. The finding of another terminal illness from which Aleksanyan is suffering is an additional reason to release him from custody and cancel court hearings."

    On Wednesday jailed former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky went on a hunger strike with no water demanding that his former colleague Aleksanyan be transferred to a medical facility and receive urgent treatment. He alleged that authorities are refusing to treat Aleksanyan until he confesses to charges.

    "My friend, lawyer and former colleague is being coerced into testifying against me, under what is in fact torture. I know from numerous media reports that the seriously ill Aleksanyan is being refused medical treatment, threatening certain death. They are killing him in prison because he, as a courageous and honest man, refuses to lie and slander," Khodorkovsky said.

    The Prosecutor General's Office said in a statement earlier today that there had been no legal violations in Aleksanyan's treatment in custody, and that his state of health had been shown by a medical inspection to be satisfactory.

    "A medical examination of Aleksanyan conducted on January 30 established that his health condition is satisfactory, which permits him to attend court trials," the statement said.

    A statement from Aleksanyan was posted today on the joint website of Khodorkovsky and his jailed business partner Platon Lebedev, saying the conditions of his confinement have been greatly improved since Wednesday.

    "From yesterday, I have received great attention and care," Aleksanyan was quoted as saying. "A prosecutor visited me today. My cell was cleaned and put in order. This may be the influence of the European Court [of Human Rights], or they may be expecting some commission."

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