Hero journalist Yulia Latynina, writing in the Moscow Times, asks why her countrymen are so pathetically spineless:
In an interview with Gazeta.ru, Natalya Vasilyeva, assistant to Judge Viktor Danilkin in the second criminal case against former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, said Danilkin had to obtain approval from the Moscow City Court — and higher — for each of his actions, and that the city court wrote the verdict that Danilkin read at the trial.
There were two surprising things about the interview with Vasilyeva. The first is her claim that Danilkin considered the process unjust and was out of sorts as a result. If that is true, it is unexpected because people tend to rationalize their actions. I find it hard to believe that the average NKVD officer really considered himself an inhumane executioner, despite the historical record showing him to be exactly that.
The second is that, if Vasilyeva spoke the truth, it is amazing how easily Danilkin buckled under pressure and sold out his ideals. After all, what would have happened to him if he had acquitted Khodorkovsky?
Michael Bohm, editorial page editor, writing in the Moscow Times:
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sent a clear and chilling signal on Dec. 16 that the “soft autocracy” of his first decade in power will become more oppressive in his second decade.
It was on that day that Putin effectively delivered the guilty verdict in the second trial of former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky during his annual call-in show — two weeks before Judge Viktor Danilkin actually found Khodorkovsky guilty of embezzlement and money laundering and added six years to his sentence, ensuring he will be locked up until 2017.
Putin’s declaration that Khodorkovsky belonged in jail was eerily similar to Stalin’s notorious practice of delivering a sentence and then having the court confirm it. Putin easily could have not selected the Khodorkovsky question during the call-in show and applied pressure on Danilkin in private. Instead, Putin flouted an apparent disregard for the law on national television. (Applying pressure or interfering in a trial is a violation of Article 294 of the Criminal Code.)
Simon Shuster, writing in Time magazine:
It must have been an awkward meeting for Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. On Dec. 29, he convened a session with his economic aides to talk about attracting talented businessmen to Moscow. No one mentioned that across the river from where they were sitting, a judge was reading out the guilty verdict of one of Russia’s most successful businessmen, oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, whose case has scared off a lot of capital from the country. But when the subject turned to Russia’s appeal for investors, Medvedev’s tone became forlorn: “The investment climate in our country is bad. It’s very bad.” And everyone understood why.
Anne Applebaum, writing in the Washington Post, explains why the Kremlin feels strong enough to ignore the law and extend Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s sentence illegally:
The judge had already postponed the verdict without explanation (“The court does not explain itself,” said a spokesman). Before reading it, he barred journalists and the defendant’s family from the courtroom. No one should have been surprised, therefore, when Mikhail Khodorkovsky – the Russian oil baron who once defied the Kremlin – received a further six years in prison last week, on top of the eight he’s served. This time, he was sentenced for “stealing” an impossible quantity of oil, the same oil he has already been accused of selling without paying taxes.
Nemtsov Arrested, Again!
Boris Nemtsov, New Year's Eve 2010
Once again, the Gestapo-like goons of Vladimir Putin, who pretend to be police officers, have arrested the former first deputy prime minister of the country for daring to publicly criticize the Putin regime and to support jailed oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky. This time, they did so even though Boris Nemtsov and his followers had a fully legalized permit to demonstrate. That did not stop Putin, who ordered mass arrests (120 or more were taken into custody, more than a third of all those present — many dressed in Santa Claus outfits) because that’s the only way he can silence his critics.
Nemtsov has now been sentenced to shocking term of fifteen days in a brutal, savage, uncivilized Russian prison where he, like Sergei Magnitsky, could easily be murdered by any number of killers. All for doing nothing more than peacefully speaking his mind in public. Mind you, the New Year’s holiday is protracted in Russia, the most important of the year by far. Nemtsov will be held apart from his family throughout it, in mortal peril. This is the nature of the enemy he faces, that we face.
Welcome to neo-Soviet Russia!
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?
“The verdict has nothing to do with justice,” said Karinna Moskalenko, Khodorkovsky’s attorney. That’s putting it mildly.
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.
A truly brilliant and inspiring editorial from the Christian Science Monitor, which takes the words right out of our mouth. There is something deeply wrong, perhaps evil, about the President of the United States and his malignant advisor Michael McFaul, who continue to betray American values in the hopes of scoring cheap electoral points with sham foreign policy “victories” while Russia descends into neo-Soviet darkness:
Talk about timing. A Russian court waited until this week – after the US Senate had ratified an arms-control treaty with Moscow – before handing down yet another conviction on that country’s best-known political prisoner, Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Sentencing is expected in coming days.
The conviction also came as the West is preoccupied with the winter holidays and not focused on the rise of human rights abuses in Russia.
But here’s the best timing: Mr. Khodorkovsky will now likely be sentenced to several more years in a Siberian penal colony – further isolating him until well after next year’s parliamentary elections and a 2012 vote for president.