fbpx

A Khodorkovsky Retrospective

The following long article was published in the Polish magazine Dziennik.

mbk060109.jpg

“Power, Carry out Your Laws!”

By Robert Amsterdam

These words stated by Mikhail Khodorkovsky at the start of a second show trial against him in Moscow this March should echo in the ears not only of the country’s leadership, but also of all those who wish to engage constructively with Russia. For a leadership that does not respect its own laws is one that no one can trust – not its own citizens and not its foreign partners.

On the night this second sham prosecution against Khodorkovsky began, a prominent 67-year-old human rights activist was savagely beaten for among other things supporting the release of Russia’s most famous political prisoner. The timing could not have been worse for Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who was in London with his international peers. Once again Medvedev’s commitment and ability to fight what he calls “legal nihilism” – and to establish the rule of law in Russia – was sorely tested.


Given the stream of news from Russia over the past year, PresidentMedvedev faces an increasingly difficult task convincing the world thathis country has achieved the institutional stability that it sodesperately needs in order to play a constructive role on the globalstage. Against a backdrop of severe corruption, the growing economicprecariousness facing Russia since last autumn demonstrates the realitythat a state of normalcy eludes the country’s economy and its governinginstitutions. Economic growth and one of its preconditions – thedevelopment of the rule of law – are failing in Russia. From humanrights and property rights to democracy and governance, little seems tobe guaranteed.

These failures are due in large measure to actions by certainpowerful elites in Russia’s own leadership. When the so-called”vertical of power”, concentrating all authority in the Kremlin, is putto the test, it has most often looked more like a “horizontal ofincompetence”.

With the Russian authorities’ tendency towards arbitrary andoccasionally irrational acts, we have been left wary of a leadershipthat may not in fact have the answers to the present economic crisis.The abuses of the legal system, the massive and pervasive levels ofcorruption, and the musical chairs by which the Russian leadershipmanages the government half of the day, and Rosneft or Gazprom theother half, do not comport with rational views of how statecraft andbusiness should be done.

Whether domestically or internationally, the Russian state hasbetrayed its responsibility to its own people to protect and adhere tothe fundamentals of the rule of law. Not only have key constitutionalnorms been undermined, but the whole of the criminal justice andregulatory systems of the country have been abused and instrumentalizedby a clique of powerful people who have brutally seized andconsolidated the country’s wealth for their own personal benefit – withglobal implications.

The last Khodorkovsky trial – which led to a conviction five yearsago this month, in May 2005 – fed into a virus of kleptocracy andresource nationalism from which the world has yet to recover. Thissecond trial now underway may be seen as the high water mark ofauthoritarian impunity for years to come.

Khodorkovsky, former chief executive of the Yukos Oil Company, andhis business partner Platon L. Lebedev, were convicted and sentenced toeight years imprisonment in 2005 and banished to Siberia. They werevictims of severe abuses of institutions of Russian state power – frominvestigatory, prosecutorial and regulatory authorities to thejudiciary – committed by a group of figures in the politicalestablishment who viewed them as challengers or competitors. Theinterests of political and commercial adversaries had coalesced toorchestrate the state’s incarceration of the two men and raiding oftheir company’s assets. When Khodorkovsky became eligible for parole in2008, those in power who still perceive him as a threat stepped up along-dormant effort to find new grounds to keep him incarcerated for along time to come. In addition to keeping Khodorkovsky isolated fromsociety, his adversaries seek to conceal the corrupt and criminalactions committed against him and other victims of the Yukos affairwith the participation and under the protection of high-rankingofficials.

Politically-Driven Prosecution

The arrest, trial, conviction, and ongoing proceedings againstKhodorkovsky have occurred not for reasons driven by the administrationof justice, but rather for reasons completely alien to justice,including:

• to confiscate his property and to rule out any possibility of that property ever being restituted;
• to silence Khodorkovsky’s criticisms regarding the causes and scaleof corruption in Russia and to halt his engagement in the politicallife of the country;
• to force an end to disagreements over strategies for the development of the country’s energy industry;
• to eliminate Khodorkovsky as a perceived threat to certain officialsin the Russian presidential administration and government.

In attacking Yukos and the company’s top managers and coreshareholders, prosecutors paved the way for a group of officials at thetop of the country’s political establishment to achieve the objectivesabove.

The reckless and heavy-handed behavior of the Russian authorities intheir dismantling of Yukos and the seizure of the company’s assetsthrough dubious and unlawful means are matters of historical record.Throughout the process, the implosion of the company’s value was whollyunnecessary, unless the objective was to destroy Yukos as an entity andto integrate its assets into state-controlled enterprises.

Khodorkovsky’s case is a watershed in Russia’s modern politicalevolution because it was intended to be, and has in fact become, alesson to all Russian citizens of the limits to the political freedomsthat came with the dissolution of the communist system.

Obvious Groundlessness of New Allegations

The prosecutor’s new embezzlement and “money laundering” allegationsagainst Khodorkovsky and Lebedev are unprecedented in monetary scaleand in the high level of distortion of both facts and laws.Khodorkovsky and Lebedev are accused of embezzling 350 million metrictons of oil worth over $25.4 billion and “laundering” over $21.4billion. These figures imply that they somehow embezzled the entire oilproduction of Yukos subsidiaries over a six-year period and “laundered”the majority of the proceeds – without being caught by independentauditors or anyone else until today. The allegations are not groundedin law, not supported by evidence and are internally contradictory.Indeed, the allegations are absurd, and completely refuted not only bydefense evidence which investigators refuse to admit into the casefile, but also by common-knowledge facts that are obvious andundisputed.

Prosecutors are criminalizing and selectively attacking ordinary,widespread business practices. Criminal law is being invoked incircumstances where it is inapplicable, while relevant commercial lawsare being ignored altogether. In so doing, the authorities are abusingtheir power of criminal prosecution.

The allegations of theft concern the activities of a great number ofYukos employees performing routine, independently audited transactions.The elements of theft – illegality and a lack of exchange for value -are simply not present. The prosecutors have taken it upon themselvesto invent concepts that do not exist in Russian law, but that have alegalistic ring. For example, assertions made about transactionsbetween subsidiaries do not consider the context and are insteadlabeled with invented terms such as “non-equivalent exchange” or “saleat an understated price” – terms that are simply not found anywhere inRussian law.

Likewise, the allegations of “money laundering” lack any grounding.To launder money, one transforms illegally-obtained funds intolegally-held assets, or conceals the criminal source of funds or otherproperty to create the appearance that ownership is lawful. Theprosecutors neglect the fact that the funds and oil production theyassert were “laundered” were in fact lawfully on the books of Yukos,lawfully dealt with in open transactions, and duly reported upon to theRussian authorities, including tax authorities. To assert that theseassets were “laundered” is a nonsensical misapplication of the term.

The prosecutors’ disregard towards acting within the bounds of thelaw also includes ignoring legally established procedural time limits.Prosecutors stubbornly pushed ahead with allegations surroundingsupposedly improper share transactions, despite the expiry of thestatutory time limit for bringing charges.

Closed Trials

Prosecutors have held closed trials in order to be able to rely uponinvariably damning alleged facts against Khodorkovsky as having beenestablished by a court of law.

Cases involving several Yukos managers have been pursued forprecisely this purpose. On March 5, 2007, a news release was posted tothe official website of the Russian Procuracy, announcing that a guiltyverdict had been issued that day in a case against two Yukos managers.The cases involved allegations over Yukos transactions that have alsobeen imputed to Khodorkovsky. Yet rather than examining thetransactions and all alleged participants in one investigation,prosecutors proceeded against lower-level Yukos managers first. Havingachieved guilty verdicts against the lower-level Yukos managers enablesprosecutors to refer to court-validated findings in their newallegations against Khodorkovsky.

Despite their central roles in the alleged facts and obviousinterest in the outcome of these cases, Khodorkovsky was not permittedto testify in court. Even written testimony and petitions fromKhodorkovsky, stating a desire to testify, were not considered.

Another Yukos manager, Antonio Valdes Garcia, who is a Spanishcitizen, left Russia after being subjected to severe abuses byinvestigators. Russian prosecutors have however chosen not to requesthis extradition back to Russia, as they are fearful of the light thatwould be shone on their abuses if a foreign court is asked to considersuch a request. To avoid embarrassment and loss of credibility, theprosecutors have instead deemed it in their interest to pretend thatthe whereabouts of Valdes Garcia are unknown, and have absurdly pushedahead with his trial in absentia.

A guilty verdict against yet another Yukos manager, announced onApril 4, 2008, indicated the extent of the bias against Khodorkovsky.The verdict refers to Khodorkovsky as guilty of criminal allegationsfor which they have not yet been convicted in court. His constitutionalright to be presumed innocent has been completely ignored.

Concealment and Distortion of Evidence through Procedural Manipulations,
Blackmail and Torture

Rather than pursue a comprehensive investigation of the factspertinent to the allegations against Khodorkovsky, prosecutors createda series of separate and parallel cases, including secretinvestigations conducted without notice to those under investigation.In so doing, prosecutors have been able to impound, conceal andmanipulate evidence in artificially isolated cases that would exonerateKhodorkovsky of the charges he currently faces. Prosecutors havethereby sabotaged the rights of Khodorkovsky to have access to criticalinformation for the development of his defense.

Prosecutors have also ignored time limits established by law, andbenefitted time and again from deadline extensions whenever desired.Investigations concerning Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were launched in2004, yet neither was given any opportunity to testify. Their firstinterrogations as suspects did not occur until two years later in 2006.The law holds that preliminary investigations are not to last longerthan two months. Prosecutors finally brought new charges againstKhodorkovsky and Lebedev on February 5, 2007. After a prodigiouslyproductive eleven-day investigation, on February 16, 2007 theprosecutors presented 127 case volumes for the defendants to becomefamiliar with. Two years later, following numerous extensions of thepretrial detention period, their case was sent to court.

Since 2004, investigations of various matters were indiscriminatelylaunched, paused, restarted or dropped by prosecutors, allowing them tocorral witnesses and confiscate evidence. Meanwhile, petitions fromKhodorkovsky and Lebedev asking for explanations of the charges againstthem were unsuccessful, regardless of the fact that they are entitledunder law to request and receive such explanations.

Prosecutors have failed to meet the legal requirements forinitiating their case on allegations of embezzled oil proceeds. UnderRussian law investigators must open such cases based upon a complaintfrom a harmed party or a suspicion of criminal activity. Yet no casewas ever formally initiated for the alleged embezzlement of oilproceeds. Nor has a proper investigation of the relevant factsoccurred. Investigators have collected materials from cases they arepursuing separately, including copies of interrogation transcripts andother documents, and simply copied them into the new case file ofKhodorkovsky and Lebedev. Virtually no real investigative work hasoccurred over the past two years, with the overwhelming majority ofdocumentation on record simply pulled in from other cases. Reams ofdocuments including raw financial data are dumped into the case file;their origin is unknown, their relevance is unintelligible, and theresult is a mess of slapped-together data that is a nightmare tonavigate. Many items are incomplete, being for example just one orseveral pages extracted from an unattributed document, the rest ofwhich does not appear in the case file. In contrast, the investigatorshave refused to accept and consider over 270 documents and Yukosfinancial data provided by the defense.

Whereas prosecutors officially designated Chita, Siberia as thevenue for the investigation of new charges against Khodorkovsky, inreality the case has been administered from Moscow. All key proceduraldecisions are taken in Moscow and case-related documents have beensigned there and then transmitted to Chita. This is contrary to thelegal requirement that the investigation actually be administered inChita, the officially designated venue. Clearly, Khodorkovsky wassimply being isolated thousands of kilometers away, in a place that hadno connection with the activities under investigation. Thissignificantly restricted his participation in the investigatory processand complicated communications with his defense counsel.

Furthermore, by holding Khodorkovsky for two years in a pretrialdetention unit, the prosecutor changed his regime of incarceration fromthe more flexible conditions of a prison colony to the harsherconditions of pretrial detention in small jail cells. Holding him forso long as a criminal suspect under arrest allowed the prosecutor toisolate Khodorkovsky far more than if he was serving his sentence in aprison colony. In pretrial detention, he has been kept underround-the-clock surveillance, deprived of exercise and fresh air andhad family visits restricted to a minimum. Under Russian law, even ifprisoners are under investigation for new allegations, they are tocontinue to serve their existing sentence as stipulated by the court’sverdict. If at all, Khodorkovsky should have been serving his sentencein an appropriate prison colony and not in a pretrial detention unitwhere the conditions are far more severe and inhumane.

An investigation was run in parallel against Vasily G. Alexanyan,former Yukos general counsel arrested in April 2006 and held inpre-trial detention until January 2009. Alexanyan refused to providefalse testimony against Khodorkovsky and Lebedev in exchange fordesperately-required medical treatment. Despite his release frompre-trial detention in January 2009, due only to an intervention by theEuropean Court of Human Rights, Alexanyan is now near death due to asevere deterioration of his health while incarcerated in pretrialdetention. His ordeal vividly demonstrates the methods and morals ofthe prosecutors, engaging in torture in order to pressure people toslander Khodorkovsky and Lebedev with lies.

Interference with Defense Counsel

Prosecutors have committed gross violations of procedural rulesconcerning defense counsel. Searches and seizures without courtapproval have become routine. Privileged and confidential documentshave been confiscated. Authorities have temporarily detained defensecounsel and harassed them and members of their families. Just this weekthe legal defense team was given reason to believe that itscommunications – by telephone and by other means – were beingeavesdropped upon by the FSB, on the order of prosecutors. Yet to datecomplaints over any such actions have been consistently ignored.

Disbarment proceedings have been threatened against defense counselby authorities without valid cause, as a form of intimidation andvengeance for defending Khodorkovsky and Lebedev. Prosecutors have goneas far as to implicate defense counsel themselves with criminalliability due to their professional association with Khodorkovsky andLebedev. This has made it difficult or impossible for defense counselto perform their duties.

For my part, I was ejected from Russia in September 2005, and have been banned from the country for five years.

Rulings by Foreign Courts and Law Enforcement Authorities

There is a prevailing consensus internationally that with respect toYukos-related cases, Russia’s justice system is so politicallycorrupted that no foreign court respecting human rights and the rule oflaw should morally or legally cooperate with Russian prosecutors.

In a landmark decision in August 2007, the Swiss Federal Tribunalruled that Switzerland is no longer to comply with Russian prosecutors’requests for assistance concerning the Khodorkovsky/Yukos cases. TheTribunal validated a series of appeals from Khodorkovsky and several ofhis former business partners who had asserted that if Swiss authoritiesassisted their Russian counterparts, grave moral and legal injusticeswould result. The judgment cited several legal violations in thecriminal proceedings against Khodorkovsky and his associates, anddeemed those proceedings to be politically motivated. According to thejudges, “Switzerland would be in breach of its internationalobligations if it cooperated with a foreign criminal proceedingpresenting a risk of treatment of an accused, particularlydiscriminatory treatment, which is inconsistent with minimal guaranteesrecognised under international law.” The Tribunal also revealed detailsof Russia’s inability or refusal to satisfy Switzerland’s requests forjustifications regarding the Khodorkovsky-related requests: Russia’sresponses to legitimate Swiss questions were deemed “scattered andevasive” and without credibility. This was the first time in history,outside of extradition cases, that Switzerland rejected a request toprovide assistance to prosecutors from another country.

In numerous other cases outside of Russia, courts and publicauthorities have consistently sided with Yukos-connected individualsfleeing the Russian justice system. Great Britain, Germany, Italy,Cyprus, Liechtenstein, Lithuania and Estonia have all refused to assistRussian justice officials in their efforts against Yukos-connectedindividuals abroad.

The Second Trial

In contrast to developments outside of Russia, Khodorkovsky has not been as fortunate in domestic courts.

From the outset of the trial this March, the defense has diligentlyfiled motions addressing both the substance of the prosecutor’sallegations and procedural failings. All defense motions are reasonedand grounded in accordance with Russian law. The most important ofthese motions, and related statements made in court by the defendants,have sought to force the prosecution to explain how there could beembezzlement of oil when the same volumes of Yukos production werereported, accounted for and heavily taxed; or how there could be “moneylaundering” without any underlying crime.

Khodorkovsky noted that despite repeatedly requesting explanationsfrom the investigators regarding the charges, and despite signing aseries of statements asserting that his questions had not beenanswered, the court nonetheless erroneously declared that answers hadin fact been provided to Khodorkovsky in conformity with the law.

Another series of motions addressed the evidentiary base of theprosecution’s case. The prosecution continues to bandy about thestigmatizing terms “embezzlement” and “money laundering” – yet has beenunable to provide any rational explanation of the charges grounded inevidence. The defense therefore motioned for the following:

• That certain exculpatory evidence be added to the case file -either documents readily available to the defense, or documents beingconcealed or impounded by prosecutors;
• That where illegal seizures of evidence had occurred, such materials be excluded from the case file;
• That the court subpoenas over 250 witnesses to testify in support of the defense;
• That the court avail itself of procedures available to obtainrelevant evidence from persons abroad, located in the United States andEurope, who have stated they are willing to cooperate with Russianauthorities;
• That public records be subpoenaed in order to prove the whereaboutsof the allegedly embezzled Yukos oil in what was a tightly-controlledstate-run pipeline network;
• That publicly available Russian government documents from the 1990sbe added to the case file, to demonstrate that government policy hadbeen geared towards the development and functioning of Yukos as avertically-integrated energy company;
• That the court consider a whole series of judgments in relevant casesadjudicated by other Russian courts; noting that official copies of thetexts of several of these judgments, germane to supporting the defenseposition on numerous issues, had suddenly become impossible to acquirefrom either public or private database sources.

In addition, the defense filed motions regarding problems in thecase file that are illustrative of the slipshod nature of theprosecution’s work. Motions have sought corrective actions regardingthe following:

• Mathematical errors in the charges;
• A multitude of inaccuracies and fabrications in documents translated by the procuracy from English to Russian;
• Numerous missing pages from documents in the case file;
• Entire documents referenced but absent from the case file.

The defense further pointed out the procedural ploys used by theprosecutors in order to ensure that Khodorkovsky remains in theconfines of strict incarceration, reducing his access to legal counseland family visits.

The defense motions were challenged by the prosecution, whoroutinely asserted either that the motions were “premature”, trying topush the judge to rule on matters that should be dealt with later inthe trial; or that the motions represented delay tactics by the defense.

The defense maintained that its position that all matters raiseddemanded immediate resolution, both for a fundamental understanding ofthe substance of the charges and for a fair hearing of the defenseposition. The prosecution’s assertion that the defense was engaging indelay tactics was wholly disingenuous, since many of the defense’srequests had been made – and ignored – on multiple occasions datingback two years. Furthermore, one effect of the investigators’ andprosecutors’ longstanding refusal to seek and admit corporate recordsto the case file is that as document retention periods expire, criticalexculpatory evidence from 1998-2000 can legally be destroyed by thirdparties who are under no obligation to preserve data for the court.

Moreover, due to the prosecutor’s long delay in bringing this caseto trial, the statutory time limit for bringing charges on certainalleged improper share transactions has expired. Despite the expiry ofthis statutory time limit, the court has agreed to hear theprosecution’s allegations. The defense has and will nonethelessvigorously defend the legality of those share transactions.

Almost every single motion filed by the defense was rejected by thecourt. The judge has overwhelmingly sided with the prosecutors, makingshort rulings that did not address the relevant law and legal reasoningpresented by the defense. Such short rulings without reasoning areinconsistent with the requirements of Russian law. The only concessionsmade to the defense were to allow certain court precedents from 1999and 2000 to be added to the case file, and to admit a list of defensewitnesses – although the judge reserved the right to reject anyparticular defense witness on a case-by-case basis when the defenseseeks their testimony later in the trial.

No evidence presented or requested by the defense has been added tothe case file. In contrast, investigators and prosecutors havepreviously been allowed to add materials to the case file as theydesire.

The defense noted that with the vast majority of their motionsrejected by the judge, the capacity of the court to render a reasonedand lawful decision was substantially hampered – if not eliminated.Khodorkovsky asserted that some of the prosecutors had in fact exposedthemselves to future prosecution for making false statements to thecourt.

The defense has posted the text of its motions and relateddocumentation on the Internet, with English translations. Anyinterested person is free to conduct their own assessment of thevalidity of the new charges against Khodorkovsky, the strength of thedefense team’s arguments and the fairness of the trial to which thedefendant is being subjected.

On April 21, 2009, Agence France Presse described the unfoldingtrial as a “theatre of the absurd”. Prosecutors have stubbornly stuckto a script – their indictment – which denies legal and factualrealities ranging from the fundamental definition of “crime” to thehighly regulated structure and operation of vertically-integratedenergy companies. They have failed to elucidate how it was possiblethat Yukos covered its operating expenses and invested heavily incapital improvements and acquisitions and paid dividends – allfinancial operations recorded on the books of Yukos and several othercompanies and banks – when the funds necessary for these operationswere allegedly stolen. A rudimentary examination of the auditedfinancial statements of Yukos renders the embezzlement allegations afactual impossibility. Furthermore, in their calculations of allegedtheft, the prosecutors impute world prices for refined and transportedoil to transactions for unprocessed wellhead output on the domesticRussian market – denying that differences in price representrefinement, storage, transport, taxation, and other downstream costs.The prosecutors also demonstrate complete ignorance of the transferpricing practices of Yukos, which continue to be employed by Rosneftand other Russian and international companies today in full compliancewith the law.

Ironically, the prosecutors will on one hand refuse to clarify majorquestions, such as whether they are alleging it was oil products thatwere stolen or proceeds of the sale of such products, and where thestolen goods or funds were taken; they will remain silent on themethod, time and place the alleged crimes were committed; yet on theother hand they will carefully read out ruble and dollar sums allegedlyembezzled to the level of detail of kopecks and cents. Prosecutors havebeen permitted to drone on for hours and days on end, reciting anindictment that everyone in the courtroom has already read; yet whenthe defendants have attempted to address the substance of theindictment, they have been continually interrupted by prosecutors andtheir statements have been cut short by the judge.

The defendants have concluded that the prosecutors do not comprehendbasic principles of law and business management and fundamentals of theenergy industry, and that they have a vested interest in apredetermined outcome at the trial and will exert enormous pressure onthe judge to achieve that outcome.

On April 3, 2009, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, former GermanMinister of Justice and current representative of the ParliamentaryAssembly of the Council of Europe, stated, “I cannot understand whyMikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev have been put on trial a secondtime. I have the impression, however, that it is being done so as tokeep them in prison as long as possible.”

Is there Hope for a Fair Verdict?

The behavior of the prosecutors in the courtroom has only weakenedtheir credibility and reinforced the incongruity between obvious factsand the allegations of embezzlement and “money laundering”. With eachruling by the judge favoring the prosecution, the window of opportunityfor a fair judgment seems to be closing, although it still cannot beexcluded.

The judge is undeniably in the unenviable position of being thefocus of incredible direct or indirect pressure by the prosecutors, andthose behind them, to rule against the defendants. On the other hand,in line with President Medvedev’s declarations regarding the importanceof an authoritative and independent judiciary in Russia, the judgecannot render credible guilty verdicts on the deficient legal groundsthat have been provided.

This trial carries enormous symbolic value for Russia and the world.Will the “tax terrorism”, state-backed raiding of private property andtrampling of human rights of recent years be validated and continued?What messages would guilty verdicts send about the competence andindependence of the Russian justice system and the prospects ofPresident Medvedev’s desire to stamp out “legal nihilism”? What wouldbe the effects on foreign investors, foreign governments and in foreignor international tribunals? If the court can ignore both facts and lawsand render a judgment “on order”, will that not signal to lawenforcement and judicial authorities across the country that they cando the same, with impunity? As posited by Khodorkovsky, will the court”understand that it is a court, and not a cheap instrument for raidersand corruptioneers? Will it help the President and the country? We’llsee.”

As the financial crisis takes its toll in Russia, we may not be thatfar from a real crisis of popular support for the regime. Having boughtpublic complacency through several years of wild energy revenues,indications are that people are starting to care again about thefundamentals of Russian governance. Given the institutional weaknessesplaguing the country in these harder economic times, official rhetoricabout reform must turn to real action, and really quickly. Otherwise,the country risks becoming a landscape of broken dreams contrasting therecent promise that Russia was building something new.

The pattern of abuse of state authority in Russia over the pastseveral years has undermined the very legitimacy of those ruling thecountry today. This is unfortunate because the necessary architecturefor the existence of the rule of law, and a thriving economy, largelyexists in Russia. Yet enormous damage has been done to Russia’sdevelopment through abuses permitted under the cover of stateauthority. Those guilty of this damage have betrayed the real progressthat has been made – in law and practice – in the development of anincreasingly prosperous rule-based market economy.

For Russia’s international peers, including Poland and the countriesof the European Union acting in unison, it has become more importantthan they might think not to turn a blind eye from incidents that timeand again have demonstrated the country’s crisis of governance when itcomes to the rule of law and, in particular, human rights.

The events of the past five years have made Khodorkovsky theSakharov of a new generation of Russian political prisoners. As withSakharov, who was the father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb,Khodorkovsky’s past – his actions and experiences in the difficulttransition environment of the 1990s – should not cloud judgment aboutthe fierce Kremlin campaign against him. Indeed, it was his experiencesof the 1990s that solidified Khodorkovsky’s convictions aboutgovernment responsibility, corporate transparency and robust civilsociety.

If the international community begins to neglect Khodorkovsky, theKremlin and other corrupt leaderships around the world will be furtherencouraged to devise legal processes using any of a broad variety ofseemingly legitimate pretexts to deny the peaceful exercise ofpolitical rights by regime opponents.

Khodorkovsky provides one of the most prominent examples. Ignoringor downplaying his fate, or that of a long list of other victims ofMoscow’s authoritarian streak, is not only to do a great disservice toRussia today. This also undermines our own long term interests. Astable, prosperous and rules-based Russia would be a welcomecontributor to the pressing global challenges that should unite us all.