“I am ashamed for my country”

Today, Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky delivered his final statement in a crowded Moscow courtroom (where the prosecutor earlier delivered his statement, attributing it to “the court”).

In lieu of a post, I wanted to reprint Khodorkovsky’s full statement, in English. I have my issues with Khodorkovsky, but I have more issues with the state that jailed him and the amazing, brazen way in which it has gone about doing this. I also agree with Khorodkovsky here: Russia is a deeply broken state.

So without further ado, MBK’s closing statement:

I can recall October 2003.  My last day as a free man.  Several weeks after my arrest, I was informed that president Putin had decided:  I was going to have to “slurp gruel” for 8 years.  It was hard to believe that back then.

Seven years have gone by already since that day.  Seven years – quite a long stretch of time, and all the more so – when you’ve spent it in jail.  All of us have had time to reassess and rethink many things.

Judging by the prosecutors’ presentation:  “give them 14 years” and “spit on previous court decisions”, over these years they have begun to fear me more, and to respect the law – even less.

The first time around, they at least went through the effort of first repealing the judicial acts that stood in their way.  Now – they’ll just leave them be; especially since they would need to repeal not two, but more than 60 decisions.

I do not want to return to the legal side of the case at this time.  Everybody who wanted to understand something – has long since understood everything.  Nobody is seriously waiting for an admission of guilt from me.  It is hardly likely that somebody today would believe me if I were to say that I really did steal all the oil produced by my company.

But neither does anybody believe that an acquittal in the YUKOS case is possible in a Moscow court.

Notwithstanding, I want to talk to you about hope.  Hope – the main thing in life.

I remember the end of the ’80s of the last century.  I was 25 then.  Our country was living on hope of freedom, hope that we would be able to achieve happiness for ourselves and for our children.

We lived on this hope.  In some ways, it did materialise, in others – it did not.  The responsibility for why this hope was not realized all the way, and not for everybody, probably lies on our entire generation, myself included.

I remember too the end of the last decade and the beginning of the present, current one.  By then I was 35.  We were building the best oil company in Russia.  We were putting up sports complexes and cultural centres, laying roads, and resurveying and developing dozens of new fields; we started development of the East Siberian reserves and were introducing new technologies.  In short, – we were doing all those things that Rosneft, which has taken possession of Yukos, is so proud of today.

Thanks to a significant increase in oil production, including as the result of our successes, the country was able to take advantage of a favourable oil situation.  We felt hope that the period of convulsions and unrest – was behind us at last, and that, in the conditions of stability that had been achieved with great effort and sacrifice, we would be able to peacefully build ourselves a new life, a great country.

Alas, this hope too has yet to be justified.  Stability has come to look like stagnation.  Society has stopped in its tracks.  Although hope still lives.  It lives on even here, in the Khamovnichesky courtroom, when I am already just this side of 50 years old.

With the coming of a new President (and more than two years have already passed since that time), hope appeared once again for many of my fellow citizens too.  Hope that Russia would yet become a modern country with a developed civil society.  Free from the arbitrary behaviour of officials, free from corruption, free from unfairness and lawlessness.

It is clear that this can not happen all by itself, or in one day.  But to pretend that we are developing, while in actuality, – we are merely standing in one place or sliding backwards, even if it is behind the cloak of noble conservatism, – is no longer possible. Impossible and simply dangerous for the country.

It is not possible to reconcile oneself with the notion that people who call themselves patriots so tenaciously resist any change that impacts their feeding trough or ability to get away with anything.  It is enough to recall art. 108 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Russian Federation – arresting businessmen for filing of tax returns by bureaucrats.  And yet it is precisely the sabotage of reforms that is depriving our country of prospects.  This is not patriotism, but rather hypocrisy.

I am ashamed to see how certain persons – in the past, respected by me – are attempting to justify unchecked bureaucratic behaviour and lawlessness.  They exchange their reputation for a life of ease, privileges and sops.

Luckily, not all are like that, and there are ever more of the other kind.

It makes me proud to know that even after 7 years of persecutions, not a single one of the thousands of YUKOS employees has agreed to become a false witness, to sell their soul and conscience.

Dozens of people have personally experienced threats, have been cut off from family, and have been thrown in jail.  Some have been tortured.  But, even after losing their health and years of their lives, people have still kept the thing they deemed to be most important, – human dignity.

Those who started this shameful case, – Biryukov, Karimov and others, – have contemptuously called us “entrepreneurs” [«kommersanty»], regarding us as low-lifes, capable of anything just to protect our prosperity and avoid prison.

The years have passed.  So who are the low-lifes now?  Who is it that have lied, tortured, and taken hostages, all for the sake of money and out of cowardice before their bosses?

And this they called “the sovereign’s business” [«gosudarevoye delo»]!

Shameful.  I am ashamed for my country.

I think all of us understand perfectly well – the significance of our trial extends far beyond the scope of my fate and Platon’s, and even the fates of all those who have guiltlessly suffered in the course of the sweeping massacre of YUKOS, those I found myself unable to protect, but about whom I remember every day.

Let us ask ourselves:  what must be going through the head of the entrepreneur, the high-level organiser of production, or simply any ordinary educated, creative person, looking today at our trial and knowing that its result is absolutely predictable?

The obvious conclusion a thinking person can make is chilling in its stark simplicity:  the siloviki bureaucracy can do anything.  There is no right of private property ownership.  A person who collides with “the system” has no rights whatsoever.

Even though they are enshrined in the law, rights are not protected by the courts.  Because the courts are either also afraid, or are themselves a part of “the system”.  Should it come as a surprise to anyone then that thinking people do not aspire to self-realisation here, in Russia?

Who is going to modernise the economy?  Prosecutors? Policemen? Chekists?  We already tried such a modernization – it did not work.  We were able to build a hydrogen bomb, and even a missile, but we still can not build – our own good, modern television, our own inexpensive, competitive, modern automobile, our own modern mobile phone and a whole pile of other modern goods as well.

But then we have learnt how to beautifully display others’ obsolete models produced in our country and an occasional creation of Russian inventors, which, if they ever do find a use, it will certainly be in some other country.

Whatever happened with last year’s presidential initiatives in the realm of industrial policy?  Have they been buried? They offer the real chance to kick the oil addiction.

Why?  Because what the country needs is not one Korolev, and not one Sakharov under the protective wing of the all-powerful Beria and his million-strong armed host, but hundreds of thousands of “korolevs” and “sakharovs”, under the protection of fair and comprehensible laws and independent courts, which will give these laws life, and not just a place on a dusty shelf, as they did in their day – with the Constitution of 1937.

Where are these “korolevs” and “sakharovs” today?  Have they left the country?  Are they preparing to leave?  Have they once again gone off into internal emigration?  Or taken cover amongst the grey bureaucrats in order not to fall under the steamroller of “the system”?

We can and must change this.

How is Moscow going to become the financial centre of Eurasia if our prosecutors, “just like” 20 and 50 years ago, are directly and unambiguously calling in a public trial for the desire to increase the production and market capitalisation of a private company – to be ruled a criminally mercenary objective, for which a person ought to be locked up for 14 years? Under one sentence a company that paid more tax than anyone else, except Gazprom, but still underpaid taxes; and with the second sentence it’s obvious that there’s nothing to tax since the taxable item was stolen.

A country that tolerates a situation where the siloviki bureaucracy holds tens and even hundreds of thousands of talented entrepreneurs, managers, and ordinary people in jail in its own interests, instead of and together with criminals, – this is a sick country.

A state that destroys its best companies, which are ready to become global champions; a country that holds its own citizens in contempt, trusting only the bureaucracy and the special services – is a sick state.

Hope – the main engine of big reforms and transformations, the guarantor of their success.  If hope fades, if it comes to be supplanted by profound disillusionment, – who and what will be able to lead our Russia out of the new stagnation?

I will not be exaggerating if I say that millions of eyes throughout all of Russia and throughout the whole world are watching for the outcome of this trial.

They are watching with the hope that Russia will after all become a country of freedom and of the law, where the law will be above the bureaucratic official.

Where supporting opposition parties will cease being a cause for reprisals.

Where the special services will protect the people and the law, and not the bureaucracy from the people and the law.

Where human rights will no longer depend on the mood of the tsar.  Good or evil.

Where, on the contrary, the power will truly be dependent on the citizens, and the court – only on law and God.  Call this conscience – if you prefer.

I believe, this – is how it will be.

I am not at all an ideal person, but I am – a person with an idea.  For me, as for anybody, it is hard to live in jail, and I do not want to die there.

But if I have to – I will not hesitate.  The things I believe in are worth dying for.  I think I have proven this.

And you opponents?  What do you believe in?  That the bosses are always right?  Do you believe in money?  In the impunity of “the system”?

Your Honour!

There is much more than just the fates of two people in your hands.  Right here and right now, the fate of every citizen of our country is being decided.  Those who, on the streets of Moscow and Chita, Peter and Tomsk, and other cities and settlements, are not counting on becoming victims of police lawlessness, who have set up a business, built a house, achieved success and want to pass it on to their children, not to raiders in uniform, and finally, – those who want to honourably carry out their duty for a fair wage, not expecting that they can be fired at any moment by corrupt bosses under just about any pretext.

This is not about me and Platon – at any rate, not only about us.  It is about hope for many citizens of Russia.  About hope that tomorrow, the court will be able to protect their rights, if yet some other bureaucrats-officials get it into their head to brazenly and demonstratively violate these rights.

I know, there are people, I have named them in the trial, who want to keep us in jail.  To keep us there forever!  Indeed, they do not even conceal this, publicly reminding everyone about the existence of a “bottomless” case file.

They want to show:  they – are above the law, they will always accomplish whatever they might “think up”.  So far they have achieved the opposite:  out of ordinary people they have created a symbol of the struggle with arbitrariness.  But for them, a conviction is essential, so they would not become “scapegoats”.

I want to hope that the court will stand up to their psychological pressure. We all know through whom it will come.

I want an independent judiciary to become a reality and the norm in my country, I want the phrase from the Soviet times about “the most just court in the world” to stop sounding just as ironic today as they did back then.  I want us not to leave the dangerous symbols of a totalitarian system as an inheritance for our children and grandchildren.

Everybody understands that your verdict in this case – whatever it will be – is going to become part of the history of Russia.  Furthermore, it is going to form it for the future generation.  All the names – those of the prosecutors, and of the judges – will remain in history, just like they have remained in history after the infamous Soviet trials.

Your Honour, I can imagine perfectly well that this must not be very easy at all for you – perhaps even frightening – and I wish you courage!

The verdict will be handed down December 15. Audio of the speech here.

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38 Responses to “I am ashamed for my country”

  1. Mark Adomanis says:

    Julia,

    I suppose this is a valuable exercise if only so that more Americans and non-Russian speakers will be exposed to Khodorkovsky’s titanic arrogance, self regard, and cartoonish cynicism. I mean when a man like Khodorkovsky (whose entire existence is basically a giant disproof of any higher power) starts to invoke, with apparent seriousness, “the law and God” and “conscience” is there any response more appropriate than riotous laughter? What’s next, a profession that all of his profits were funneled into orphanages and soup kitchens?

    This speech is also interesting because it confirms, for the millionth time, that Khodorkovsky is targeting his “message,” if one can really call it that, almost entirely at credulous Westerners who either won’t be able to see through his blabbering or will choose not to. I mean maybe there is someone somewhere in Russia who will be moved by self-pitying comments such as “I am not at all an ideal person, but I am – a person with an idea. For me, as for anybody, it is hard to live in jail, and I do not want to die there” but there can’t be many.

    Anyway I’m genuinely looking forward to how Khodorkovsky’s inevitable (re)conviction will be covered by US Russia watchers: perhaps Leon Aron can pen an article arguing that the arrest of Khodorkovsky is actually worse than the holocaust.

    • Actually, the views expressed by MBK here are shared by many of the thinking, doing, business-doing residents of Moscow, not just the foreigners. When was the last time you were in Russia, Mark?

    • @delibash says:

      “This speech is also interesting because it confirms, for the millionth time, that Khodorkovsky is targeting his “message,” if one can really call it that, almost entirely at credulous Westerners who either won’t be able to see through his blabbering or will choose not to.”

      How exactly does it confirm it? Just a couple of concrete examples from the speech, please? Otherwise, your statement sounds a bit glenbecksquesqe.

  2. Mark Adomanis says:

    Really Julia, you’re going to pull out the “I’m physically present in Russia and you’re not” canard? Ok yeah so I haven’t been to Moscow in 2 years, I guess that invalidates everything I have to say? Every poll I’ve seen, including one cited by the Economist , shows that the overwhelming majority (75+%) of Russians want Khodorkovsky to stay in jail. Any comment on that, or is this entire issue something that I can’t possibly hope to understand because I happen to be in Washington DC and insufficiently exposed to the magic aura of the motherland?

    Russia is a gigantic country and its citizens, like any sizable group of people, will have innumerable disagreements and differences of opinion. I’m sure that “many” Moscow residents support Khodorkovsky and want to see him released from jail, just as “many” Americans support higher taxes, same-sex marriage, healthcare reform, a carbon trading scheme (I think you see where I’m going with this). Big cities are always more forward looking and progressive than the hinterland, and Moscow is a huge and hugely populous city. But there’s a lot more to Russia than Moscow, and the majority of Russians don’t want to see Khodorkovsky freed, just as the majority of Russians continue to support Putin and Medvedev.

    But what do I know, I’m on the East Coast of the US.

    • First, I absolutely will play the canard because it’s not a canard at all. There is no substitute for being here and feeling the pulse, talking to people.

      Second of all, nice bait-and-switch. The point isn’t the elite or the non-elite, at least your point wasn’t. Your point was that MBK is the creation of the Western press, his sole supporters. That is absolutely not true. Muscovites who don’t read the Western press know the case inside and out. Businessmen are made uneasy about it. It’s brought up at every investor forum or economic conference I’ve been to in Moscow, which are usually attended by people pre-disposed to liking Russia for its riches. So there.

  3. Mark Adomanis says:

    I really don’t think you want to play this game, Julia. You’re based in Moscow which is, by a gigantic margin, the richest, most economically dynamic, and most international of Russia’s regions. Indeed Russia’s level of regional economic inequality is one of the starkest in the world, and (outside of a few tiny and sparsely populated oil producing regions) Moscow is clearly at the top of the heap. What’s more, you’re clearly not an idiot and also know this.

    Claiming that living in Moscow and hobnobbing with investors gives you some unprecedented, unique, and irreplaceable insight into Russia would be like a reporter from Vedemosti claiming that living in Manhattan and attending social functions at the Harvard Club gives them some special insight into America’s soul. It is preposterous and laughable, and I really can’t believe that you think that the fact that you currently live in Moscow somehow makes your writing immune to criticism from people based in other geographic locations.

    Now, Manhattan is part of America just as surely as Moscow is a part of Russia, and I’m not going to get into the stupid games of who is a “real” American or Russian. But the point is that Moscow, while an important part of Russia, is not, by any conceivable demographic, economic, or political metric, a representative sample of it. If you go to “investor forum[s] or economic conference[s]” and speak to wealthy businessmen and financiers, you will of course hear a number of opinions that differ from those held by the vast majority of Russians because (as if this needs really even needs to be said) the vast majority of Russians are not wealthy businessmen living or doing business in Moscow.

    I’ve never said that MBK is the “sole” creation of the West, merely that Westerners are a lot more likely to give a crap about him than the average Russian. When I say “the great majority” of Russians don’t like MBK and do like Putvedev, I DON’T mean to say “all” or “every. ” Again, Russia is a large and populous country and if 30% of the citizenry either 1) wants to see MBK out of jail or 2) hates the “tandem,” that is A LOT of people! Tens of millions! However the fact that MBK’s PR efforts are run by Western firms and are primarily conducted in English is telling and suggests, at least to my lizard brain, that he (accurately) perceives that his primary base of support is not located in Russia but in the West.

  4. And may he spend many more happy years in the slammer!

  5. mab says:

    How about this: Perhaps Khodorkovsky is making sure his case is followed in the West because just about the only way to sometimes get some semblance of justice in Russia is by getting media attention in the West?
    Besides, why does it matter that X percent of Russians, manipulated by the state-controlled media, don’t like Khodorkovsky? Or that you don’t?
    Instead, Mark, why don’t you explain how someone can be convicted of tax evasion based on income from oil sales, and is now being charged with having stolen all that oil in the first place?

  6. kovane says:

    OK, this is hilarious. let’s see how turning the tables works.

    Julia, I’ve been living in Russia my whole life, as opposed to you, an emigrant who returned very recently. By your logic, this fact alone gives me huge credibility. I’m also no stranger to business circles, and in my observations, nobody gives a flying flag about Khodorkosky’s fate. Their only worry is not to follow his steps, but the state gave a clear signal as to why he is in prison. Besides, Khodorkovsky had a nastiest reputation – he easily bumped off people who got in his way and swindled investors, Kenneth Dart can add a few colourful remarks here, I guess. You just can’t shake off such a reputation by shaving off mustaches and hiring a PR team. And no matter how poignant and heartrending speeches he makes, Russia’s public opinion will support any sentence.

  7. Linar Zairov says:

    Mr. Adomanis,

    Which polls are you referring to? I can’t speak for most people but neither can you. Most of the opinion polls in Russia suffer from sampling design flaws and bias. Any inference based on these is most likely invalid.

    As for the ‘public’ opinion of Mr. Khodorkovsky’s trial, I think you are wrong. Poor people don’t give a damn about it. The only ones who seem to care are those that Ms. Julia mentions.

  8. Andrei says:

    Incidentally I am on of those Russians who is currently living in Manhattan and although I don’t work for Vedomosti (an excellent paper btw), I can claim that I understand American soul (whatever that is) a lot better than those Russians who are in Russia. So I will totally support Julia’s claim about understanding what’s going in the country and “feeling the pulse”. And having read most of what Julia has written I believe she really does have her “hand on the pulse” as we say in Russia.
    I am also one of the Russians who equally dislikes Khodorkovsky and Putin/Medvedev but wants to see him out of jail. It’s just not right to single out one businessman as an example to the rest of the oligarchs. This is not what justice or rule of law is about.

  9. Timothy Post says:

    @Mark: I’m sorry but you’re totally wrong and in this instance, you’re the one who should have folded after comment #1.

    I like you. I appreciate you’re writing but, in many instances, you really do need to be here. Which brings up the question, wtf are you doing not living here? Now to your points:

    1. Living in Moscow is irrelevant. I live in Krasnodar and lots of my peers in business express support for MBK. The same can be said for any large city.

    2. Actually, your point about Moscow being “so totally different from the rest of Russian” is a canard, of your own, which is normally throw about by Western journalists who know nothing about the so-called regions of Russia. You’re better than that. Enough already. Get your ass over here. What, Krasnodar is some backwater. I call Bullshit on you. Until you live here, you will always be at a disadvantage, regardless of your rhetorical skill.

    3. Hobnobbing? Julia isn’t hobnobbing when she’s at some investor conference (rubber chicken dinners, anyone?). Julia never made the claim that living in Moscow, per se, makes her an expert. She simply said that you not actually being “in country” makes it less likely that you will have an intimate grasp on what Russians, of all persuasions, think about MBK….. and she’s absolutely correct.

    4. Your third paragraph is unnecessary overkill. Do a bong-hit, put on some Jack Johnson, and chill-out!! Same with your 4th paragraph…. you’re sounding shrill.

    5. I agree with you that MBK gave the wrong speech. MBK should be playing the patriotic theme not the righteous freedom, liberty, and justice theme. MBK’s advisors did him a disservice by not giving him the feedback that this speech doesn’t earn him any points from any camp. The only reason to give this speech was if he intends to emigrate after he gets out in 2011. If MBK wants to influence more than the 7.5% urban liberal folks, he needs to tell people why they should care. People in Russia, by and large, want stability and improving living standards. Full stop. If he wants to be a moral authority, fine, but whining isn’t how one becomes one any time soon.

    Ok, enough slamming all around. Let’s get to the fun stuff- predictions. Put up or shut up. What’s going to happen in MBK between now and the next Presidential election in March 2012.

    My prediction (and advice to the Kremlin) is that:
    a. MBK will be found innocent in the 2nd trial in December and will serve out the full-term of his first conviction, which makes him a free man in October 2011.
    b. Medvedev runs and wins the presidential election. Putin stays on as Prime Minister for one year and then becomes chief justice of the Supreme Court- the first man in Russian history to be head of KGB, President, Prime Minister, and Chief Justice. A woman is appointed as the Prime Minister.

    What’s your prediction?

    • Business interests rarely coincide with national interests. The MBK issue is no exception.

      And my prediction is that the judge will respect the latter and the upstart thief remains in jail.

      • Lyndon says:

        “Business interests rarely coincide with national interests.”

        You’re joking, right? Although I guess it depends on how you define “national interests”…

      • Are you joking?

        What interest were the Russian financiers calling for the Army to lie down and die (as to not to anger the West and risk their profits) when the Georgians invaded South Ossetia serving? What possible national interest could be discerned in providing the banksters with the bailouts they were all clamoring for? What about the RIAA suing Americans for millions of dollars for uploading 24 songs or the big banks systemically involved in foreclosure fraud. Are these activities building a great nation – or are they ruining it while lining their own pockets? Capital is fundamentally mercenary, and has no master other than greed and fear.

        PS. People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. – A. Smith

      • Lyndon says:

        “Capital is fundamentally mercenary, and has no master other than greed and fear.”

        But as opposed to your faceless bogeyman “capital,” government leaders are all belye-pushistye, and never evince greed or make use of fear? Now you really are joking.

        Smith is great, of course, and that’s a good job of cherry-picking, but I prefer a different quotation you may have heard:

        “The business of America is business.”

        And it’s no less true for Russia – if you think the “chekistskii kriuk” or whatever (or even steadily rising oil prices, for that matter) is going pull Russia back to the level of a global player on a sustainable basis – where it certainly belongs – you’re just wrong. Medvedev’s innovation agenda sounds good because it sounds like an attempt to promote what business does on its own in countries where there’s a decent/predictable climate for businesses to operate. It is unlikely to work, though, because these things cannot be “managed” from the political center.

      • Now you’re just putting words in my mouth, like Julia in the corruption thread. Obviously government is no panacea but that isn’t an argument for letting business run wild either.

        While the innovation route may or may not succeed, without the political intervention of initial subsidies / tax breaks, certainly no Russian Silicon Valley would ever emerge.

    • He will get convicted, be put away till after the presidential “election” of 2012, then Vova will figure out what to do with him, which will have to involve something that will not allow Vova to lose any face, especially not now after all the stink everyone’s made of it. Probably, this will involve a situation where he dies in jail of natural causes. If you know what I mean.

  10. grafomanka says:

    Educated Russians know that the trial is political. As for many poor, and some not so poor, they are wondering why is it only Khodorkovsky that sits in jail, what about other people that stole the country?
    So the only fail is Russian justice system.

  11. Warren Metzler says:

    I only visited Russia once, but I read. And this man, Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky was obviously a crook, like all his fellow oligarchs. If he wants sympathy, the least he could do is confess his numerous crimes. How does he expect me to believe he got control of Yukos, through brilliant financial thinking?

    I accept that current Russia is corrupt, as are all countries that emerge from the former Soviet system, which was based on deceit and fantasies, and it would be good if Russia’s court system became just and not its current role as the government’s enforcer. But that movement is not facilitated by labeling an obvious crook as a martyr.

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  13. Lyndon says:

    Without wanting to fan the flames here – can’t we all just get along? – I would point out that apparently the Russian version of Forbes thinks the Yukos case is important enough to be featured in its schematic of “what’s in a [Russian] businessman’s head”:

    http://www.forbes.ru/svoi-biznes/predprinimateli/58650-chto-v-golove-u-biznesmena

    Mark, your counterargument may be that “businessmen” make up a small portion of the Russian public. True, of course. But I hope we can all agree that they wield influence out of proportion to their numbers (as do businesspeople in most or all political systems) and, more importantly, that they are a demographic which even Putin/Medvedev (or at least the latter) believe will be instrumental in Russia’s further development. So spare a thought for the concerns of the biznesmeny, please…

    And if you don’t think l’affaire Yukos has had an impact on all those foreign investors the Russian president talks about attracting, well, you must not be attending the right conferences.

    Oh, and esli chto, I’ve been in Moscow for 5 out of the last 6 weeks, if that makes any difference🙂

  14. marknesop says:

    I can’t forget that if the situation had turned out differently, Khodorkovsky would now be just another fabulously-rich oligarch, secretly courted by the west because of his economic clout but reviled and spat upon daily by the western media for being rich in a country where so many have so little. A fine example of this two-faced policy is seen in the martyrdom of Luzhkov only weeks after many sources – especially this one – couldn’t say enough about what a useless clown he was.

    That said, that was one hell of a closing statement. You can see what he might have been had he turned to political opportunism rather than fiscal. He’s a bright guy.

    I agree with Mark Adomanis that the twists and turns of the Khodorkovsky trials are much more the obsession of westerners sympathetic to the liberal opposition – for reasons that have little to do with little bluebirds of freedom twittering about the heads of everyday Russians – than of those everyday Russians.

  15. Timothy Post says:

    Predictions folks…… no abstentions allowed. We’re all a bunch of opinionated SOB’s, so don’t be shy: What’s going to happen in the MBK trial? Acquittal? Conviction? When will he be freed, if ever. Go on the record.

    PS: Mark, do you have a blog? The Russia watcher community just isn’t the same without you )))

    • Mark Adomanis says:

      Sadly I’m a blogging vagrant at the moment: ever since True/Slant shut down, life just hasn’t been the same. Hopefully I’ll be back in the game soon: if I wait any longer, my vestigial Russian language skills will totally disappear, which would be equal parts sad and embarrassing

  16. Lyndon says:

    Just to be clear, are the various cultural luminaries who signed this petition also not representative of the “real Russia”?

    (interesting that it was covered by RosBalt)

    http://www.rosbalt.ru/2010/11/02/786406.html

  17. mab says:

    Folks, some of you are missing the point here. In this trial Khodorkovsky and Lebedev are accused of stealing all their company’s oil. In the previous trial, they were convicted of tax evasion, which was based on the income of the company from oil sales. That is, it was established in court that YUKOS made money from oil sales, but now the prosecutors are stating that they had stolen all the oil.

    Are some of you really saying: Yeah, this is bogus, but so what? He’s a bad guy, so put him in jail. Who cares what the pretext is?

    • Thank you for making this v important point.

    • Mark Adomanis says:

      This (“Yeah, this is bogus, but so what? He’s a bad guy, so put him in jail. Who cares what the pretext is?”) is EXACTLY the thought process guiding both the treatment of Khodorkovsky and the US’ treatment of detainees.

      I personally find such logic reprehensible in any instance, but it’s fully to be expected when dealing with people from hated out-groups (“terrorists” or “oligarchs”) OR people that the state, for various reasons, thinks are extremely dangerous.

      So, in short, I don’t think that Khodorkovsky’s prosecution is agreeable or “good,” (to the extent that it’s had a chilling effect on Russian business it’s clearly a negative) but in the grand scheme of things it’s utterly unexceptional and hardly evidence that the Russian state is some unique example of depravity.

  18. mab says:

    Um, who said that it was “evidence that the Russian state is some unique example of depravity?” I know it’s hard, but try to focus here, and try not to make straw men out of other posters.

    There is, however, the broader context of “rule of law” and “judicial impartiality” within Russia. Without making any claims about Russia being better or worse, or three rating points above or below various African countries, Russia DOES have a problem with selective prosecution, rigged courts, and political use of the judicial system. Remember “legal nihilism?” We talk about that over here, and at the highest levels, we condemn it. But then nothing seems to change. So that’s why this trial — where the prosecution’s case is so transparently, so obviously, so clearly we-know-it’s-bogus-and-we-dare-you-to-object — is so important. Everyone is waiting to find out: is it business as usual (ie, legal nihilism prevails) or not? That’s what Khodorkovsky said in his speech. You might not like his pathos, but then you haven’t spent 7 years in Chita.

    As far as a prediction goes — I can’t make one. Things are changing. It’s not that Mr M and Mr P are feuding, but that the clans backing them are maneuvering and dancing around. Since the dance is going on behind a curtain with only a few shadows visible or the occassional shoe slipping out, it’s hard to say how far the dance has gone. But it might have gone far enough for an aquittal.

  19. marko says:

    His audience is obviously a Western one, and he does not appear to be ashamed of anything he had done. (And he is courting the same audience by making himself an exhibit at the Berlin Wall Museum…I can’t wait for his exhibit among the Holocaust exhibits at Libeskind’s museum.) Russia’s democracy came broken from the box, and the only thing it did effectively was allow a few to plunder things that belonged to everyone – Khodorkovsky was prominent among those few. How is releasing him supposed to restore faith in the system? It will now protect ALL the wealthy kleptocrats?

    Germans embraced fascism and launched a war of annihilation against their neighbors, murdering tens of millions of them. Today they live many times better than those that defeated them, and it is hard to remember if they ever suffered. It does not seem fair, does it? What lesson could be learned from this – that Russians should embrace every cause that hurts them because “international investors” know better? I think it could be a disaster. Besides, these investors are struggling to keep up with the investors in the Far East, who will pick up any pieces they ignore (Sudan and Zimbabwe among them).

  20. Pingback: I Am Ashamed Of What Russia Has Become | money news ticker

  21. Pingback: Hodorkovskega je sram za Rusijo, a slika ni črno-bela « razgledi.net

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