Tag Archives: khodorkovsky

Khodorkovsky as the neo-Soviet Sakharov?

Foreign Policy offers a long feature on dissident oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s neo-Soviet persecution by the Putin Kremlin, which Dave Essel highly recommends:

He has been stabbed, spied on, and sent to solitary confinement. His oil company assets have been seized by the state, his fortune decimated, his family fractured. And now, after nearly seven years in a Siberian prison camp and a Moscow jail cell, he is back on trial in a Russian courtroom, sitting inside a glass cage and waiting for a new verdict that could keep him in the modern Gulag for much of the rest of his life. Each day, he is on display as if in a museum exhibit, trapped for all to see inside what his son bitterly calls “the freaking aquarium.”

Mikhail Khodorkovsky was once Russia’s richest man, the most powerful of the oligarchs who emerged in the post-Soviet rush of crony capitalism, and the master of 2 percent of the world’s oil production. Now he is the most prominent prisoner in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, a symbol of the perils of challenging the Kremlin and the author of a regular barrage of fiery epistles about the sorry state of society from his cramped cell. In a country where the public space is a political wasteland, his case and his letters from prison evoke a different age.

“No doubt,” he wrote us from inside the glass cage, “in modern Russia any person who is not a politician but acts against the government’s policies and for ordinary, universally recognized human rights is a dissident.”

Continue reading

EDITORIAL: Warrior Khodokovsky slashes Putin yet Again

EDITORIAL

Warrior Khodorkovsky slashes Putin yet Again

At the second trial of dissident oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky last week, not one but two major figures in the Putin government heaped scorn on the ludicrious charge that Khodorkovsky personally embezzled millions of tons of crude oil from his company while he was a free man.

Continue reading

Obama must End his Craven Silence on Russia

An editorial in the Washington Post notes that Russia is flouting the Obama administration on human rights (it overlooks the fact that, as we report below, the deal over Iran sanctions is for a watered-down sham no different than several similar pacts reached in the Bush years, and the deal over nukes is equally dishonest, achieving only tiny marginal changes in weapons stockpiles — so the price Obama has paid for this escalation in human rights atrocities is truly appalling).

RUSSIA’S GOVERNMENT has calculated that it needs better relations with the West to attract more foreign investment and modern technology, according to a paper by its foreign ministry that leaked to the press last month. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has recently made conciliatory gestures to Poland, while President Dmitry Medvedev sealed a nuclear arms treaty with President Obama. At the United Nations, Russia has agreed to join Western powers in supporting new sanctions against Iran.

Moscow’s new friendliness, however, hasn’t led to any change in its repressive domestic policies. The foreign ministry paper says Russia needs to show itself as a democracy with a market economy to gain Western favor. But Mr. Putin and Mr. Medvedev have yet to take steps in that direction. There have been no arrests in the more than a dozen outstanding cases of murdered journalists and human rights advocates; a former KGB operative accused by Scotland Yard of assassinating a dissident in London still sits in the Russian parliament.

Perhaps most significantly, the Russian leadership is allowing the trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former oil executive who has become the country’s best-known political prisoner, to go forward even though it has become a showcase for the regime’s cynicism, corruption and disregard for the rule of law. Mr. Khodorkovsky, who angered Mr. Putin by funding opposition political parties, was arrested in 2003 and convicted on charges of tax evasion. His Yukos oil company, then Russia’s largest, was broken up and handed over to state-controlled firms. Continue reading

Khodorkovsky as the New Sakharov

Foreign Policy reports:

He has been stabbed, spied on, and sent to solitary confinement. His oil company assets have been seized by the state, his fortune decimated, his family fractured. And now, after nearly seven years in a Siberian prison camp and a Moscow jail cell, he is back on trial in a Russian courtroom, sitting inside a glass cage and waiting for a new verdict that could keep him in the modern Gulag for much of the rest of his life. Each day, he is on display as if in a museum exhibit, trapped for all to see inside what his son bitterly calls “the freaking aquarium.”

Mikhail Khodorkovsky was once Russia’s richest man, the most powerful of the oligarchs who emerged in the post-Soviet rush of crony capitalism, and the master of 2 percent of the world’s oil production. Now he is the most prominent prisoner in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, a symbol of the perils of challenging the Kremlin and the author of a regular barrage of fiery epistles about the sorry state of society from his cramped cell. In a country where the public space is a political wasteland, his case and his letters from prison evoke a different age.

“No doubt,” he wrote us from inside the glass cage, “in modern Russia any person who is not a politician but acts against the government’s policies and for ordinary, universally recognized human rights is a dissident.”

Continue reading

EDITORIAL: Berezovsky 1, Putin 0

EDITORIAL

Berezovsky 1, Putin 0

He laughs last laughs Berezovsky

When state-operated RTR TV accused Russian “oligarch” Boris Berezovsky of being involved in the assassination of KGB defector Alexander Litvinkenko, Berezovsky cried foul.

Claiming RTR went to press without a shred of evidence linking him to the killing, as part of a political smokescreen designed to deflect blame from the real killers who were Kremlin operatives, Berezovsky filed a libel lawsuit in Britain.  It was Berezovsky against Putin, mano-a-mano, before an impartial arbitrator.

Last week, Berezvosky emerged the smiling victor.  He was awarded £150,000 (a quarter of a million dollars) in damages after the High Court of Britain concluded that Putin’s minions at RTR had been lying.

Ouch.

The verdict is a direct condemnation of the Kremlin, similar to what Mikkhail Khodorkovsky is seeking in the European Court for Human Rights. The British court ruled that the Kremlin was directly complicit in RTR’s libeling of Berezovksy since RTT “had been assisted both before and during the trial by a team from the Russian prosecutor’s office.”

Continue reading

EDITORIAL: Khodorkovsky, Russia’s Oddest Duck

EDITORIAL

Khodorkovsky, Russia’s Oddest Duck

Jailed oil “oligarch” Mikhail Khodorkovsky is surely Russia’s oddest duck, and in a land of strange fowl that is really saying something.

Khodorkovsky released a vicious broadside aimed at the Kremlin last week.  Writing in Nezavisimaya Gazeta (we republish an English translation below in today’s issue), Khodorkovsky stated that “the steamroller that has replaced justice is the gravedigger of the modern Russian state” and accused the Putin regime of operating a mafia-like judicial system whose “destruction will occur in the traditional way for Russia – from below and with bloodshed.”

Ouch.

Continue reading

Khodorkovsky comes out Swinging

“Legalized” Violence

By Mikhail Khodorkovsky

Nezavisimaya Gazeta

March 3, 2010

Translated from the Russian by Khodorkovsky & Lebedev Communications Center

My view of the work of our law-enforcement System and of the feelings experienced by a person who has been caught in its grindstone would be far too negative if it were based only on my own personal experience.

After all, I am a somewhat different kind of prisoner.

My adventures are taking place under the double classification of “special control” – my lawyer Yuri Schmidt happened to discover this by chance in the course of a session of the Supreme Court of the RF. And I have always been sitting under this same “special control”. Audio, video, and human. They have never placed ordinary homeless people, in jail for a break from the tough conditions of life on the street, with me in my cell.

What I am about to recount is the result of the instinctive work of an analyst (something the manager of any large entrepreneurial structure invariably is), who, over a period of nearly 7 years, has continually found himself in the thick of the struggles of our law-enforcers – both amongst themselves and against Russian citizens.

Continue reading

Khodorkovsky Speaks

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, writing in the New York Times:

For Russia, the past decade started out on an optimistic note. The country was emerging from a severe financial crisis and the political upheavals of the ’90s. Industry and agriculture were rapidly recovering and the financial system had been rescued and strengthened. Business attracted millions of people to apply their efforts and talents. The institutions of state had begun to work more reliably and the structures of a real civil society had begun to form.

Today, many people recall with sadness that Russia once had a real, working parliament, where social and business interests engaged in dialogue, where compromises were sought and found. They recall how the country’s judicial system had begun to feel its independence, and how they discovered that they had a civic role to play in the places they called home. There was hope that people in Russia would become active participants in a dynamic, full-fledged civil society.

In the international arena, the voice of a new Russia began to be heard — the voice of a responsible and benevolent good neighbor. Before us lay a long yet well-lit road.

But in the years that followed, Russia turned from it. Today, for all practical purposes, we do not have a real parliament, an independent judiciary, freedom of speech or an effective civil society. The hopes for the formation of a new Russian economy turned out to have been misplaced: Our industrial output, other than raw materials, is not capable of competing even on the domestic market. Russia’s international role has changed drastically as well — now we are more likely feared than respected.

Who is to blame for this turn of events? Not just the Kremlin. Responsibility for modern Russia’s transformation must be laid on the elites — the people involved in the adoption of the most important political and economic decisions.

Continue reading

Khodorkovskaya Speaks

Anastasia Khodorkovskaya

The Moscow Times reports:

Jailed businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky and writer Lyudmila Ulitskaya were jointly awarded a literary prize by the literary journal Znamya on Wednesday for a series of letters between the pair.

For obvious reasons, Russia’s former richest man — who was jailed for eight years on fraud and tax evasion charges that he says were fabricated and is currently on trial for laundering billions of dollars in Moscow — was not at the ceremony. His daughter, Anastasia Khodorkovskaya, accepted the prize on his behalf.

Continue reading

Putin sticks his Foot in his Mouth, Again

Streetwise Professor reports:

No doubt the recent decision of Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague intensified Putin’s Pavlovian response to a question about Khodorkovsky.  The court ruled that Yukos shareholders could sue Russia for violating the Energy Charter by seizing Yukos assets.

Continue reading

EDITORIAL: A New Low in Russian Barbarism

EDITORIAL

A New Low in Russian Barbarism

We here at La Russophobe spend a good deal of time gaping slack-jawed in horror at the latest example of Russian barbarism.  But now and then, even we are surprised by the depths to which this misbegotten mire of a country can sink.  For instance, the New York Times reports:

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once his country’s richest man, has resided in “gulag lite,” as he calls the Russian penal system under Vladimir Putin, for six years. Since the spring, on most working days he is roused at 6:45 in the morning, surrounded by guards and packed into an armored van for the drive to court. For two hours each way, the man who once supplied 2 percent of the world’s oil crouches in a steel cage measuring 47 by 31 by 20 inches. Convicted of tax evasion and fraud in 2005, Khodorkovsky now faces a fresh set of charges that add up to the supposed theft of $30 billion. In the dark of the van, Khodorkovsky tries to prepare for his trial, replaying in his mind his night reading, the daily stack of documents from his lawyers. But Russia’s most famous prisoner worries too about what would happen if a car slammed into the van. (Collisions are routine in Moscow’s clotted avenues.) “Your chances of making it out alive,” he wrote me one day this summer, “at any speed, are next to none.”

It is far beyond our powers of comprehension how a country could allow a situation like this to persist and yet call itself “civilized.”  In our view, it cannot do so.  This is barbarism, pure and simple. It is torture, it is subhuman, it is unworthy of nation with pretensions to greatness.  It shows that Russia is governed by petty, mean-spirited and indeed demonic children, not men, certainly not mature human beings.

We condemn it, and we condemn those — the vast majority of the Russian population – who condone it actively or passively.  We implore the people of Russia to slow down step back from the black chasm of neo-Soviet despair and failure toward which they are hurtling at breakneck speed.

EDITORIAL: Russia Legalizes Barbarism

EDITORIAL

Russia Legalizes Barbarism

A few weeks ago, we reported on how Russian courts have ruled that it is illegal for women to work in various jobs that men are genetically better suited for.

More recently, we noted the European Union’s conclusion that corruption is so widespread in the Russian court system that justice is impossible to obtain.

But none of that prepared us for the revelation provided by Khodorkovsky attorney Robert Amsterdam while translating a report about his client’s second trial, now underway, from the pages of Novaya Gazeta.

Continue reading

In Putin’s Russia, they Free the Rapist Murderers and Jail the Mothers

Susanne Scholl, Moscow Bureau Chief for Austrian Public Television, writing in the Moscow Times:

Colonel Yury Budanov is a convicted rapist and murderer. After serving half of his 10-year prison sentence for the rape and murder of an 18-year-old Chechen, Elza Kungayeva, he was released in January on parole for good behavior.

Svetlana Bakhmina worked as a lawyer for former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky. In 2004, she was arrested and sentenced in 2006 to 6 1/2 years on embezzlement and tax fraud charges. Like Budanov, she applied for early release from prison in 2008. Her request was refused, as was her earlier plea in 2006 to suspend her sentence until her two small sons reached the age of 14 – a request she was entitled to make under Russian law.

Continue reading

Special Extra: Bakhmina is Free!

Svetlana Bakhmina with her children

Svetlana Bakhmina with her children

First Russian “president” Dima Medvedev sits down with Kremlin foe Novaya Gazeta and now the Kremlin has released Khodorkovsky attorney Svetlana Bakhmina, who will walk out of prison almost three years to the day after she was sentenced to six for fraud.

Nothing could better prove how desperate the Kremlin is becoming to deflect criticism as the Russian economy faces a relentless tsunami of bad news.  Unemployment is soaring, inflation is doing the same, and Russia is caught in a merciless vortex of finanical hardship that the KGB thugs who rule Russia simply have no idea how to correct.

Continue reading

EDITORIAL: Jail Khodorkovsky!

EDITORIAL

Jail Khodorkovsky!

In another typically excellent piece of analysis, Russia’s leading liberal pundit, Yevgeny Kiselyov, in his Moscow Times column, explains why Russia and the world would be much better off if jailed oil executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky stayed in prison.  We think Khodorkovsky would be better off too, and staying in prison would be appropriate pennance for his outrageous recent attempt at collaboration with the Kremlin, leaving Khodorkovsky himself better off as well.

Continue reading

Another Original LR Translation: The Perils of Svetlana Bakhmina

Svetlana Bakhmina, in Kremlin custody

Svetlana Bakhmina, in Kremlin custody

A note from the translator: Yuliya Latynina is a great columnist with the requisite gifts of perception and clear-sightedness and the ability to write straightforwardly. This is very noticeable when one translates things. Some texts just flow from the Russian through the keyboard into English, others are a struggle. Milov, for example, is much harder to translate than Yuliya. It’s not a matter of subjects, it’s a matter of good thinking and expression. I see it the other way round too — I can read a free translation of an Economist article out loud to my wife [the Economist has strict style standards] but pieces from other journals are always harder. Translateability, therefore, can be a measure of the excellence of the author. Yuliya ranks high. 

A note from the editor:  You can sign a petition to call for Bakhmina’s freedom here. A second piece about Bakhmina’s plight from the same Russian source follows Latynina’s.

First she did not Apply
and Secondly she Withdrew the Application

Yulia Latynina

Yezhedevny Zhurnal

31 October 2008

Translated from the Russian by Dave Essel

Cops flag down a black Mercedes on Kutuzovsky Prospekt. They find a body with a bullet in its head in the trunk. “What’s all this, then?’ they ask. “Well, our friend here committed suicide and we’re on our way to bury him,” answers the driver. “And why’s he got a soldering iron up his rectum?” “Oh, that was the deceased’s last wish.”

I was reminded of this wonderful anekdot [TN: the Russian анекдот is so special it does not deserve to be translated by the word ‘joke’] when I saw the Kremlin’s reaction to Svetlana Bakhmina’s request for release on parole. The Kremlin said she had made no such application. The camp authorities said she had withdrawn her application. As for Bakhmina herself, not even her lawyers are able to get in touch with here – she’s been hidden away in hospital.

Isn’t that just typical of those liberal swine: they raise Cain in support of Bakhmina but she never even asked for parole and in any case has rescinded her request!

Continue reading

Another Original LR Translation: Latynina on Khodorkovsky

What a biography they invented for him!

On the fifth anniversary of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s arrest

by Yuliya Latynina

Novaya Gazeta 27.10.08

Translated from the Russian by Dave Essel

Do you remember what you were doing on the day they arrested Khodorkovsky? I certainly do. I was sitting and writing a piece about the Tuzla Peninsula when I got a phone call and the poor peninsula immediately and irrevocably ceased to exist.

It’s not that often that we remember precisely what we were doing on some particular day five years ago. In my case I remember it because I went to sleep in one country and woke up in another.

This has happened to us several times since then. We woke up in a different country after the murder of Anna Politkovskaya. After Litvinenko’s poisoning. After Beslan and the abolition of the election of governors. After the Russo-Georgian War. But the first time this happened to us was when Khodorkovsky was arrested.

Continue reading

EDITORIAL: Khodorkovsky in La-la Land

EDITORIAL

Khodorkovsky in La-La Land

The bizarre and ever more “Russian” story of jailed oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky took yet another strange turn last week.

It turned out that for months Khodorkovsky had been communicating with Russian novelist Grigory Chkhartishvili (a/k/a Boris Akunin) for an interview in the Russian version of Esquire magazine (published by the same parent as the Moscow Times).  No sooner had the interview appeared on its pages (but not its website, the Russian version being available on the web only on Khodorkovsky’s site) than the Kremlin chucked Khodorkovsky into solitary confinement for two weeks for participating in it. Though the details are quite murky, it appears that the Kremlin claims Khodorkovsky sent letters to Chkhartishvili that it wasn’t allowed to censor first.  This alleged disciplinary violation could be used to deny Khodorkovsky parole the next time he comes up for it, although that’s a moot point because he’s facing a new round of charges that could independently keep him in prison for the rest of his life.  Khodorkovsky’s lawyer Robert Amsterdam has published a complete English translation of the article on his blog.

Chkhartishvili starts out by asking Khodorkovsky why he speaks out so rarely in the press. An excellent question, especially as it concerns those who faithfully served him and were likewise persecuted, such as Svetlana Bakhmina for instance!  Khodorkovsky responds: “For a real dialogue is needed an interlocutor who understands and is interested. They just ‘don’t make that kind’ of journalist in Russia. Why? Maybe the publishers don’t want it, maybe self-censorship.” But how can Khodorkovsky possibly imagine it will lead to him being taken more seriously to give an interview to a pop novelist to be published in a foreigner-supported men’s glossy with little circulation or reputation in Russia?  Perhaps Chkhartishvili’s closing comment sheds some light: “In our country there is got no small number of writers and cultural figures who want to support you and for whom it is important to know what you think. I am confident that they will continue this dialogue and will maintain it until all of us – civil society – have attained your release. Endurance to you and health.”  Apparently, then, he’s in the tank for Khodorkovsky. So apparently the oligarch has no problem with shill journalists, just as long as they are his shill journalists.

Meanwhile, it seems that the whole charade was part and parcel of Khodorkovsky’s ongoing effort to curry favor with the Kremlin.

Continue reading

EDITORIAL: Khodorkovsky Sells Out

Perhaps soon, it will be Putin's goons who brandish Khodorkovsky's picture?

This man risked his life standing up for justice, but perhaps soon it will be the Putin goons who brandish the Khodorkovsky photo?

EDITORIAL

Khodorkovsky Sells Out

The Moscow Times has published a correspondence interview with jailed oil oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky.  Asked about Russia’s conduct during the Georgia invasion, the oligarch replied: “It’s important to understand that President [Dmitry] Medvedev had no other choice given situations on Aug. 8 and Aug. 26.”  In utterly repugnant fashion, the next day Russian “prime minister” Vladimir Putin echoed this theme in a speech to the malignant Valdai Discussion Club, albeit in less tactful language. Putin stated: “In this situation were we supposed to just wipe away the bloody snot and hang our heads?”  It was almost as if Khodorkovsky had set the table for Putin, and for all we know maybe he did.

A few weeks ago, we condemned Khodorkovsky for allowing so many people to lobby for his freedom and hope for his leadership, only to collapse like a craven coward at his parole hearing, begging for mercy and promising to be a good boy, a lackey of the Kremlin.  His remarks to the MT, sadly, only confirm how right we were to do so.

Continue reading

Special Extra — EDITORIAL: Khodorkovsky Surrenders

EDITORIAL

Khodorkovsky Surrenders

“I’m not going to return to the oil and gas business or seek a review of the unjust decisions concerning Yukos after being set free. I will devote myself to humanitarian projects and, most importantly, my family.”

– Mikhail Khodorkovsky, to his Chita parole board, August 21, 2008

Another one bites the dust.

Continue reading