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.)
Vladimir Kara-Murza, writing on World Affairs:
Russian officials have a selective approach to holidays. When it came to arrestingopposition leader Boris Nemtsov on New Year’s Eve and sentencing him on January 2 (a Sunday), no effort was spared. Yet when it came to hearing his appeal, Tverskoy Court remembered that January 1 to 10 is a period of vacation. By law, an appeal against administrative arrest must be heard within 24 hours. The former deputy prime minister has been in detention since December 31, but his appeal has still not been reviewed due to “holidays.” On January 8, another attempt to vindicate Nemtsov’s legal rights ended with Mr. Nemtsov’s lawyer, Timur Onikov, being escorted out by bailiffs. On January 11, the appeal was admitted as a priority case — by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Neo-Soviet Russia goes Berzerk
The cell is a concrete box, 1.5 by three metres, without a window and without even a mattress. A bare floor and that’s it. Absurdly, they have charged me with disobeying the police. For three hours the police bosses didn’t know what to charge me with; then they received an order from upstairs. I understand this action is designed to frighten the opposition. They are mad and don’t know what to do with us. We cannot and will not give in.
— Note written by former Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov and smuggled out of his jail cell in Moscow following his arrest for publicly criticizing the Putin regime in a permitted demonstration
Vladimir Putin started of 2011 by making it seem that his New Year’s resolution was to conclusively prove to the world once and for all that his country has gone berzerk.
First, one of his “judges” convicted Mikhail Khodorkovsky again, ignoring his years of incarceration in Siberia and ignoring the fact that the evidence against him was a total charade. As we report in today’s issue, the “judge” cited testimony from witnesses who said Khodorkovsky did not steal oil as proof that he had done so, and convicted him of stealing more oil than the prosecution had accused him of doing. He was then sentenced to the absolute maximum allowable by law.
Then, another one of Putin’s “judges” convicted Boris Nemtsov of participating in an illegal demonstration even though the event had the formal written permission of the government. As we report in today’s issue, Nemtsov was held in a cell with bare walls (no windows, ventilation, raised bed or even mattress on the floor) and made to stand through his entire four-hour “trial.” Unlike Khodorkovsky, the only “crime” of which Nemtsov was even accused is speaking to harshly about the Kremlin’s crackdown on democracy. Unlike Khodorkovsky, too, Nemtsov has held high-ranking government positions and been elected to office.
But the rule of law, of course, is a meaningless concept for the barbaric clan of apes that now rules Russia.
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.
The brilliant Vladimir Kara-Murza, writing on World Affairs:
In Russia, New Year’s Eve is usually a joyful family occasion. Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov spent it in a police detention cell — a five-by-ten feet concrete cubicle with no windows, no ventilation, no plank bed, not even a mattress. The Moscow Public Supervisory Commission, a prisons watchdog group, reported that conditions of his detention violated the most basic rules. On January 2, the former deputy prime minister of Russia was driven from his cell to Tverskoy Magistrate Court and sentenced to 15 days in prison for “disobeying police.” Judge Olga Borovkova, who forced Mr. Nemtsov to stand for the duration of the trial (more than four hours), disregarded statements from 13 witnesses as well as the video of his arrest. The conviction was based on the words of two police officers who asserted that Mr. Nemtsov was “cursing” and “attempting to block Tverskaya Street” (Moscow’s main avenue). He is currently being held in a detention center on Simferopolsky Boulevard.