EDITORIAL: Jail Khodorkovsky!


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.

Kiselyov points out that the charges against Khodorkovsky this time are not only redundant, they are ludicrous on their face, alleing “that he  stole all of the oil Yukos extracted while he was the company’s chief shareholder from 1998 to 2003. As ridiculous as it may sound, the prosecution claims that Khodorkovsky stole 350 million tons of oil — from himself, effectively.”

If Khodorkovsky is sent back to Siberia for life on charges that barbaric, it will seriously undermine the Kremlin’s crediblity on a permanent basis.  Nothing is more in the interests of the Russian people than that. Khodorkovsky should beg for conviction. On his knees.

Kiselyov notes:

In recent years, the Putin administration has sought the extradition of former Yukos employees who fled to a host of European countries, from Britain to Cyprus. All of the court proceedings in those countries ended with the same verdict: a refusal to extradite on the grounds that the charges were politically motivated and that the former Yukos managers would face persecution if returned to Russia.

In other words, even without the new conviction the world’s civilized nations are already condemning Russia as a banana republic whose justice system simply cannot be trusted, and refusing to soil themselves by affiliating with it in any way. This process must continue.  Khodorkovsky must stay in prison to maximize the speed at which it does so.

A conviction will also undermine Medvedev personally.  Kiselyov writes:

One year ago, Medvedev’s speeches and public statements about the great value of freedom inspired hopes in liberal circles that a political thaw was in the making. One year later, however, those hopes appear to have been only naive dreams. Far from being able to even slightly modernize or democratize Putin’s rigid power vertical system, Medvedev has shown in his first year in office that he lacks independence and legitimacy.

One year ago, the fate of Khodorkovsky and his colleagues was seen as the main test for Medvedev’s professed liberalism and independence as a leader, but today it seems that Medvedev has failed that test. He has shown no mercy or leniency to any of the Yukos defendants. If Medvedev had the political will or clout, he could have granted Khodorkovsky amnesty, particularly since he has already served over half of his prison term.

The Kremlin’s desire to keep Khodorkovsky locked up extends to Medvedev as well. It is important to remember that Medvedev was the head of Putin’s presidential administration in 2004 and 2005 — a critical period in the Yukos affair when the Federal Tax Service besieged Yukos, Rosneft effectively expropriated Yuganskneftegaz, and the authorities brought criminal charges against Khodorkovsky. Medvedev had to have played some role in all of that, so he also has reasons to fear setting Khodorkovsky free

If Khodorkovsky stays in prison, it shows the Kremlin is afraid of him. Afraid that he will expose its outrageous misconduct in prosecuting him, afraid he will challenge their legitimacy and take power.  The image of the Kremlin’s weakness is one that must continue, and an imprisoned Khodorkovsky is one of the best possible ways to assure that it does.

Releasing Khodorkovsky would be a naked propaganda ploy by the Kremlin, designed to defuse the human rights movement and derail the democracy movement.  Kiselyov analogizes it to the release of Andrei Sakharov from exile by Mikhail Gorbachev:

Those who still harbor hope that Medvedev will liberalize Russia should consider whether he has serious intentions of reforming the political system. I recall when Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev decided in December 1986 to allow dissident Andrei Sakharov to return to Moscow from his forced internal exile in Gorky. As much as I respect Gorbachev, I am convinced he did not take this step because he was such a great democrat and liberal, but because he wanted to send a clear signal to the world. “This regime is changing,” he effectively declared. “The old Soviet Union is becoming a thing of the past.”

But Russia’s current regime has shown no desire to change. Kremlin deputy chief of staff Vladislav Surkov publicly said as much recently. For his part, Medvedev made a small but significant statement in an interview with Spanish journalists earlier this week. He said, “Overcoming the crisis and developing democratic institutions are two different things and they should not be confused.”

So it is very clear that Mr. Khodorkovsky can serve his country best by remaining in prison — particularly in light of his disgusting attempt to curry the Kremlin’s favor by begging for parole likea supplicant.

We hope he stays there just as long as Putin remains in power.

22 responses to “EDITORIAL: Jail Khodorkovsky!

  1. Khodorkovsky and his family have suffered enough. He would be a valuable asset to the liberal opposition if he’s freed.


    Not if he goes on saying the Kremlin was right to attack Georgia, he wouldn’t. And if he were to be released it would only be because of some promise not to help the opposition, which if he broke would only result in his being arrested again. The fact is that the Kremlin would not release a dangerous Khodorkovsky, so he’s only “valuable” to the extent he remains in jail.

  2. This is very disappointing to read. The argument is flawed in many respects, the first being that a release or pardon or fair treatment of Khodorkovsky would somehow mean that all problems in Russia were magically solved overnight. Of course that’s not the case, and that’s not something we’ve ever argued over at RA.com.

    If Khodorkovsky is convicted on these absurd charges, you are correct in noting that it would permanently undermine the legitimacy of the state. But do we even need more proof? Wasn’t the legal manipulation made clear the first time around, when independent observers declared the trial to be politically motivated?

    Regardless of what happens to MBK, we still have frequent brutal murders in the streets (also probably a fake trial for Markelov’s killers), the ongoing Politkovskaya legal saga, and the reprehensible criminalization of civil society groups such as Oborona. None of that is going to disappear.

    With a couple of these assumptions, you’ve found yourself cheering on the Kremlin like a nationalist to continue the senseless destruction of a man’s life to suit the needs of your politics.

    That is indeed disappointing.

  3. I agree, James.

  4. oh please, no pity for this crook and chauvinist. If released, he will be Zironovsky, a heartwarming Russian fascist with only money and power on his mind. Gives us a break, no need of a handkerchief in this case.

  5. Gary Marshall

    Hello Luis,

    Spoken like a true Russian prosecutor, leader, or mindless citizen.

    Gary Marshall

    • yeah you woudnt say so if you knew your heroe’s stance on Chechnya, Georgia and other issues. Same fascist scum as Zirinovsky. AS they say in Russia: “yabloko ne daloko upalo ot yableny”

    • p.s thanks for the compliments though

  6. LR, I wonder if you would be more stubborn and unbroken after few years spent in GULAG leftover.


    Nothing that terrible has happened to Mr. K other than the loss of his freedom, which he himself invited by remaining in the country. He courted public support as a standard-bearer for liberalism, then abandoned the position when he found out what it really means to suffer for principals. We condemn him for that, for misleading us as to his abilities and intentions.

    We’d have no problem supporting Mr. K as a broken victim of neo-Soviet power if he’d admit that’s what he is, but he won’t. Instead, he and his supporters continually claim he’s still fighting the good fight and deserving of our support. That’s nonsense.

    If we had billions in the bank and thousands of people taking to the streets in our defense with their hopes pinned on us, we’d like to think we’d give our lives before disappointing them. That’s not an act of great courage, simply a matter of honor. But the point is that, if we’d been broken, we’d admit it.

  7. La Russophobe demonstrates once and for all that their support of Saakashvili trumps logic, fairness, and the friendship of Robert Amsterdam.

    The most revealing quote from La Russophobe is, “Not if he goes on saying the Kremlin was right to attack Georgia, he wouldn’t…..”

  8. Frankly, I think it’s sick that LR advocates that a man should remain in jail simply to make a political point.

  9. “Nothing that terrible has happened to Mr. K other than the loss of his freedom”

    Yeah, like “nothing terrible” happened to one of the Yukos executives who was not released even as he was literally dying from both AIDS and cancer (former Yukos vice president Vasily Aleksanyan) and even after the European Court ruled in his case.

  10. “which he himself invited by remaining in the country.”

  11. heh What is a point of freeing just another chauvinist? And how innocent this chauvinist is? There are very few differences between him and his arch nemesis Putin. Their policies and views though are very similar. He is not a liberal, democrat or imprisoned martyr. As penny would like to say, get real people!

    • Are you basing this opinion on his letter from Siberian prison colony, where he spent much time in a solitary cell?

  12. Hello Luis,

    Well, if Mr. K is just like Mr. Putin, why is Putin not also in some Siberian Gulag?

    As for K’s opinions on Georgia or Chechnya, I do not really care. It is irrelevant. If one wishes to pollute his thinking with all sorts of absurdities, it makes him an idiot or a fool, not a criminal. If Russia maintained that standard, they would end up imprisoning the whole country.

    Russia is a veritable decrepit, barbarous prison, but not officially. Judging from your comments, you must be an upstanding Russian citizen.

    Mr. K has done nothing wrong except operate a profitable operation that employed thousands of well paid workers and managers. And he was well within the rights of a citizen to demand better government.

    Only a crime in Russia.

    Gary Marshall

  13. Friends, please, let’s be civil!

    There are two parts to the story. First, the personal fate of Khodorkovsky. As Penny and Robert Amsterdam note, an innocent person doesn’t deserve to rot in a Siberian jail. It doesn’t matter what kind of conditions he has there. Risk of being assaulted by some demented thug like Kuchma is real; and it wouldn’t matter if the demented thug acts on his own or on the orders of warrant officer, or on the orders of Kremlin. For those of us that didn’t spend time in Russian GULag – let’s not be too judgmental.

    By the way, Saharov wasn’t in solitary prison cell when he was in Gorky, either. He had a decent apartment where he lived comfortably with his wife. Yet, the world saw it for what it was – exile; and called Saharov for what he was – prisoner of conscience.

    Then there is a political aspect; and this is the main emphasis of Kiselev’s article. Gorbachev’s release was just one of the signs of change and hope. Saharov, by the way, didn’t change – he continue to criticize Soviet power, and was adamant that the infamous Article 6 of Soviet Constitution (Communist Power is the guiding force of Soviet society) should be abolished.

    Putin, on the other hand, is interested in gestures. Freeing Khodorkovsky could be one of such gestures. Given that Obama administration (gullible, or willingly suspending disbelief) is looking for an excuse to reset the relationships will all world thugs – this could be just what the doctor ordered. From that perspective (and only from that perspective) it would be better for freedom-loving Russians for Putin not to free Khodorkovsky

    • “As Penny and Robert Amsterdam note, an innocent person doesn’t deserve to rot in a Siberian jail.”

      In case if you think I am Robert Amsterdam (Khodorkosky’s lawyer), I’m totally not.

      Anyway, the whole concept of rooting for the political prisoners to stay imprisoned/die in prison only to embarass their persecutors, or because they are not that of martyrs after all, is pretty new to me.

      About Khodorkovsky’s letter:

      “Under some totalitarian systems of communism, important party members who had fallen out of favor with the political elite were sometimes forced to undergo “self-criticism” sessions, producing either written or verbal statements detailing how they had been ideologically mistaken, and affirming their new belief in the party line. Self-criticism, however, did not guarantee political rehabilitation, and often offenders were still executed.”

  14. Khodorkovsky should be freed on the simple basis that his incarceration was a sham from the get go.

    As for those who thinks US Pres. B.O. is going to be “upset” if M.K. is not released, guess again. Pres. B.O. and Vladimir Putin are two sides of the same coin. Both are little more interested in obtaining and maintaining all the power they can stomach…and then some, and enriching themselves at the expense of…guess who…the general populace. Don’t expect anything from Pres. B.O.

    Mr. K’s conditions of imprisonment alone would be grounds for a MAJOR lawsuit if they occurred in the United States. This is just all around bad. My support and prayers go to M.K., his family, and those who have been jailed along with him due to this charade. Now I best stop because my blood pressure is rising over the absolute injustice at this whole affair. What the world is witnessing here is nothing more than a vendetta against one man and those who supported him. The world should be outraged regardless of M.K. political viewpoints.

  15. Robert,

    In case if you think I am Robert Amsterdam (Khodorkosky’s lawyer), I’m totally not.

    I don’t. I was referring to James whose link is referring to http://www.robertamsterdam.com/

    Sorry for the confusion :)

    barb, to avoid further confusion – I agree with you completely. I am sure Kiselev does as well. His article is written tongue-in-cheek; I was trying to put some things that he is writing about in perspective – don’t know how successful I was.

  16. Pingback: Translation: Confessions of a Russian “Liberal” Part 1 | Sublime Oblivion

  17. Da Russophile

    Actually I’m not surprised (and as such, not disappointed) by LR’s actions at all.

    The truth of the matter is that “Russophobes” of their stripe put “democratic” ideals above common human decency and empathy, tossing aside their cripples once they’re no longer useful. As well as using all the dirty tricks in the book they accuse the “regime” of doing like using web brigades to form social opinions, hiding behind pseudonyms like cowards and brainwashing their followers using NLP. See the testimony by Tatyana Korchevnaya to see them for the Bolshevik crooks that they really are.

    (Although, I agree with her that Khodorkovsky should stay in jail albeit not for the same reasons. I believe he is a major fraudster, quite possibly murderer and traitor).

    Anyway, delete, ignore or flame away as you see fit.


    Do you realize that you have egomania and delusions of grandeur oozing out of your slimey pores? Not only do you suggest that the purpose of this blog is to surprise you, but also you give us permission as to how we may respond you your inane drivel. Sir, you are a full-bore psychopath, and it is “not surprising” at all that you cannot understand how someone can actually believe in and fight for a principle, even want to give their life for it. Maybe one day you should sit down with a nice volume of King or Gandhi, who routinely sacrificed their adherents lives fighting for liberty.

    If you just once more imply you are giving us permission as to how we can respond to you, you’ll be banned from commenting. If you’d like to be banned right now, just say so — or for that matter, just get lost you pathetic loser.

  18. Pingback: Translation: Tatyana Korchevnaya – On Liberal Web Brigades

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