Court Aide Braves Authorities on Khodorkovsky


Today a dramatic new twist in the Khodorkovsky trial emerged.  Natalya Vasilyeva, a disillusioned court aide to judge Viktor Danilkin, who recently handed down a 14-year sentence to the Yukos founder and business and partner Platon Lebedev, has reportedly told the press that Danilkin was coerced into handing down a strictest sentence by higher-ranking officials during a trial which was consistently surveiled by the upper echelons of the judiciary.  The suggestion that the trial was rigged may not be a revelation, but what is astounding is the bravery of the admission, given that those who shine a light upon the darker corners of Russia’s judicial system, as the Power Vertical points out, dramatically increase their risk of becoming trapped within it.  From Brian Coulson:

“I can say that the whole judicial community understands very well that this is a made to order case and a made to order trial,” Vasilyeva said, adding that top officials were concerned that Danilkin would not impose a sufficiently harsh sentence on Khodorkovsky. 

Judging from Danilkin’s conduct in the courtroom, perhaps those fearswere justified.

During the long trial, which began in March 2009 andwrapped up in late December, Danilkin often appeared to be doingsomething remarkable for such a politically charged case — consideringit on its merits. 

He treated Khodorkovsky with more respect thananyone dared expect. He admitted testimony from government officials whodefended Khodorkovsky like German Gref, the head of Sperbank andRussia’s former economy minister, and Viktor Khristenko, the formerindustry and trade minister.

And when the prosecution made mistakes andcommitted gaffes, he laughed along with defense lawyers andKhodorkovsky’s supporters. Indeed, one wonders how anybody could keep astraight face throughout the trial give the ludicrousness of the charges– Khodorkovsky was accused of stealing oil from his own company!

Welcome to Absurdistan.

”Danilkin began to write the verdict. Isuspect that what was in that verdict did not suit his higher ups, andtherefore he received another verdict, which he had to read,” Vasilyevasaid.


ther recent whistleblowers who have stuck to their stories have found themselves in varying degrees of trouble (read journalist Aleksei Siderenko’s excellent rundown here.)

Anastasia Volochkova, the socialite and former prima ballerina, has reportedly had her television show cancelled by Channel One after she revealed that she had been tricked into signing a 2005 letter denouncing Khodorkovsky.

Aleksei Dymovsky, the original YouTube cop who went public with corruption allegations against police in the Black Sea port town of Novorossiisk faced prosecution and harassment. 

Mikhail Yeseyev, an investigator in the northwestern city of Ukhta, was prosecuted and sentenced to a penal colony after he accused police in November 2009 of falsifying evidence in an arson case.

Grigoriy Chekalin, Ukhta’s deputy prosecutor, received an 18-month sentence after making similar allegations in the same case.

In her interview with “,” Vasilyeva appeared poised and confident, albeit very aware of the gravity of what she was doing. When asked why she decided to go public, she replied: “”Because I am disappointed” in how the judicial process really worked.