I’m only 15 minutes into a conversation with Mikhail Khodorkovsky when I stutter out what is perhaps the stupidest question I’ve ever asked. So dumb, in fact, that Khodorkovsky, upon hearing it, bursts out laughing.

The 56-year-old Khodorkovsky is, in the nicest way, intimidating. A former oligarch who was once the richest man in Russia (he was valued at $15 billion), Khodorkovsky survived the murderous Wild West years of Russian gangster capitalism and served nearly a decade in a Siberian prison (on trumped-up tax-evasion charges).

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