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.”
And when one considers that this piece in the Russian press, written by a man in a Siberian prison cell, was timed to appear with Khodorkovsky’s full-scale offensive against Putin in the European Court for Human Rights, seeking $100 billion in damages for Putin’s theft of the YUKOS assets Khodorkovsky used to own, it’s a truly brilliant and valiant bit of writing.
It seems like only a yesteday, however, that when faced with the possibility of parole Khodorkovsky was sucking up to the Kremlin in the most shameless manner, rationalizing its invasion of Georgia and, seemingly, promising the Kremlin he would be a good boy if only they’d release him from his Siberian torment.
We’d like to give Khodorkovsky the benefit of the doubt. Years unjustly confined to a Siberian prison cell would wear down anyone, as surely must the prospect of a second trial on the same charges that could put him away for life. Perhaps his prior antics, shameful and discouraging as they were, merely represented a moment of weakness.
Surely, all those who purport to represent the opposition in Russia are guilty from time to time of similar transgressions. They bicker with each other when the should be fighting the enemy in the Kremlin. They adopt half measures, they vacillate. And yet, who can blame them, then the vast majority of craven Russians either sit quietly doing nothing or actively support the regime?
As odd as Khodorkovsky’s behavior may be, he continues an active struggle against the Kremlin from behind bars. He faced arrest rather than fleeing, as did Boris Berezovsky. He has done more to stand up against the neo-Soviet state in any one day of his life in the last decade than most Russians will do in their entire lives.
Recently, a Russia court held that because a man who repeatedly raped an 8-year-old girl had a job, a family and personal references, he didn’t need to spend a single day in jail but only needed a suspended sentence. Khodorkovsky was never accused of any violent act and he also had a family, a job and references. Yet he was ordered serve his entire sentence in Siberian prison. That’s not justice, and not even the most crazed Russophile can claim otherwise. Similarly, the murderer of Magomed Yevloev was given only house arrest.
So we salute this odd Russian duck, and we hope one day he will quack his way right inside the walls of the Kremlin, and have the chance to order Vladimir Putin to Siberia for a while. We doubt Putin will bear up half as well.