The Russian “Legal” System, Out of Control
That’s when dissident oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky can expect to leave the Siberian prison cell where he has been held since October 2003. He’ll serve 14 long, brutal years — and indeed may not live to complete his term. Then again, since he has just been sentenced a second time for the same offense he’s already served years for allegedly committing, what is to stop Russian dictator Vladimir Putin from taking a third bite at the apple. Or a fourth?
We have long warned about the danger of the “give Russia a chance” advice. We have warned that if you “give Russia a chance” to do the right thing on Khodorkovsky, you play into the Kremlin’s hands, allowing it to consolidate power and present horrific misdeeds as fait accompli. What can be done now to influence Russia’s manifest persecution of a political rival to the Kremlin? Nothing.
And so the Kremlin will continue and persecute more rivals, until there are none. In fact, the so-called Russian “justice system” has been on something of a feeding frenzy of late. And that does not surprise us.
For instance, another patriotic Russian was also facing the music in court, in connection with the assassination of human rights activist Natalia Estemirova. But it wasn’t her accused killer, it was her colleague Oleg Orlov, who had dared to point the finger of blame for her killing at Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin’s hand-picked ruler in Chechnya.
And then just to round things out there was Arkady Gontmakher, an American citizen jailed by the Kremlin on charges of poaching king crab from Russian waters. Gontmakher was acquitted on all charges, then promptly re-arrested as if his trial had never happened.
Russia has never been a country where laws, or individual human lives or rights, mean much. But recently, under Vladimir Putin, the country’s management of its so-called legal system has degenerated to the point of outright barbarism, where nobody is safe. The same situation, in other words, that prevailed under Josef Stalin.
At least under Stalin, though, Russians had the excuse of acting in furtherance of communist ideology, defending its pure innocence from the evils of capitalism. Now, Russia has no such excuse. Now, Russia is just a mafia state, and its court system is merely the capo regime.
It’s ironic that even as Khodorkovsky was being re-convicted on the same charges for which he has already served more than half a decade in a savage Siberian prison colony, the Kremlin was also re-arresting Vladimir Kvachkov for plotting the overthrow of the Russian government.
Unlike Khodorkovsky, who the Kremlin characterizes as a corrupt outsider, Kvachkov is one of the Kremlin’s own. Promoted to colonel in the Russian Military Intelligence Service (known as the GRU, it’s the military’s version of the KGB), Kvachkov is one of Vladimir Putin’s brothers in arms — you know, the folks Putin once said were incapable of any crime against Russia such as blowing up the apartment buildings that were destroyed in Moscow in September 1999.
So it’s clear that it’s not only those on the “left” so reviled by the Kremlin that are shocked and offended by the Putin regime. And let’s not forget the rampaging thousands who rioted recently in Moscow! All across Russia, the Kremlin is forced to resort to neo-Soviet means to control a population that is rejecting the failed policies of the Putin regime as it becomes ever more obvious that they have led the nation to the brink of an abyss. Yet just as in Soviet times, ordinary Russians show no sign of willingness to stand up for people like Khodorkovky, Orlov or Gontmakher either on moral grounds or merely for self preservation. Though seeing the total failure of the their government plainly it appears Russians are content to watch, once again, as if they were helpless while the nation collapses into ruin.