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Grigory Pasko: A Visit to the Khodorkovsky Trial

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A lifeless trial

Grigory Pasko, journalist

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1. A non-lyrical digression

In the chancellery for civil cases of the Khamovnichesky District Court of Moscow they told me that I’d need to call a consultant at such and such a number with all questions relating to the trial of Khodorkovsky and Lebedev.

– And what’s the consultant’s name?
– What business is that of yours?
– I need to call this person something after all, don’t I?
– Well, I don’t know… (A long pause) And who are you, anyway?
– Me – a journalist, my name is…
– Understood. Her name is Svetlana Anatolievna.
– Thank you!


Not only in the courts, but everywhere, in any organ of any Russianpower – be it legislative, judicial, or executive – they will nevergive you the name of the person you are looking for at the firstattempt. Even when you’re meeting face-to-face, he, this person, willnot immediately tell you his name. I think that this takes place forone simple reason: these people are afraid of personal responsibility.Namelessness – their screen, behind which they hide.
Why is it that in European countries, in the USA and Canada officialsalways either have a nameplate with their name -job title, or theyimmediately hand you their business cards? Because they, as a rule,carry out their duties well and are not accustomed to hiding. Ours -are. From this all those «What business is it of yours?» responses.

Nor did I immediately learn Svetlana Anatolievna’s surname. And whenI did, it was not from her. Nevertheless, by telephone she said that nopermissions are required to attend the judicial process [the trial] inthe YUKOS case. After a pause she added: «If you’re not intending tomake use of equipment…» I said that I was in fact planning to: a photocamera, an audio recording device, a notebook computer… «Then, – saidMs. Klimova, – you have to write an application to the name of thechairman of the court…» A pause. And she added: «But you needn’tbother writing: we’re not giving anybody permission anyway».

2. The trial

They allowed me into the courthouse without problems. The dutyofficer asked : «You’re a witness?» «No, said I, I – am an observer».The photo camera, naturally, I had to surrender for storage to apoliceman. But the audio recorder they did not take away.

The first to come into courtroom № 7 were the lawyers – Klyuvgant, Rivkin, Terekhova…
Then appeared procurator Valery Lakhtin – all hot and bothered, with a whole bunch of sheets under the arm.
At ten minutes to eleven, Moscow time, into the courtroom surrounded byfive guards they brought the defendants Mikhail Khodorkovsky and PlatonLebedev. The defendants looked decent, I would say fresh and peppy. (Iknow from my own experience that to attain this state in jailconditions is not nearly as easy as may seem from the side).

They immediately ushered them into the «aquarium» – a special spacein the courtroom for the defendants Khodorkovsky and Lebedev. It can beseen that the power is very scared of these two long-sitting people. Onthe cage from the glass hung a chain and handcuffs. The cage wassurrounded by five guards, one of whom – was with a Kalashnikovmachine-gun.

A bit later came another three procurators – Shokhin I recognised, anot-young procuratrix and some young person in civilian clothing.

At 11:00, judge Viktor Danilkin entered and said something veryquietly. The bailiff immediately invited the witness Vitaly Khatkov.

Questions of the witness were asked by Platon Lebedev. Fromeverything it felt that Platon knows not only the volumes of thecriminal case well, but also the essence of the oil business of the endof the nineties of the previous century.

The witness responded sluggishly, with reluctance. Most frequentlyfrom his lips crept such phrases: «I can not say precisely…I don’tremember… I don’t know… I don’t understand the question… I’m not anexpert…»
Procurator Lakhtin periodically jumped up and demanded that Lebedev’squestion to the witness be withdrawn. The little procuratrixperiodically whispered something in the ear of first Shokhin, thenLakhtin. In so doing, she was chuckling.
The young person in the cohort of the procurators soon fell asleep.Good thing he didn’t start to snore. Nobody woke him up: judging byeverything, this was not the first time this had happened.
Once again he was awakened by laughter and a lively stirring in thecourtroom: the witness Khatkov to a question answered with the phrase:«The data cited in the case materials are incorrect». In so doing, whatwas being spoken of was his testimony, given by him at the preliminaryinvestigation.
For the sake of fairness I will note that the witness did not allowmany such obvious overlays. In the main, he mumbled something wanly andindistinctly. But when he answered clearly, procurator Lakhtinapprovingly nodded his head.

The routineness of what was going on came through in everything: thejudge did not always demand of a witness to clearly answer thequestions;the witness often expressed obvious conjectures; theprocurator did not always withdraw untoward questions of the defendant;some of the lawyers and those present in the courtroom were obviouslybored…

3. Feelings

The feeling of being present in a theater never left me. All of theattributes were present – the players of the roles, the spectators, thedecorations, even coat hangers stood in the corner. Obviously, somebodyupstairs had written a script and had thrown it in to the appointedplayers of the roles. And all the players took the script in hand oftheir own volition.
The defendants played their roles well. It could be seen that they hadread all the case materials and were well-versed in them. (Which youcould not say about the procurators).
I caught myself at the thought: so what if they had read and areplaying the role assigned to them well? At the sentencing this may notmanifest itself. Even more, the verdict is no doubt already written.

I therefore was not surprised one bit when I found out that thequestion of the involvement of the defendants in… murders has yet to beraised in court.

What do murders have to do with any of this?
Well, just a week before this day of sessions, prime-minister of RussiaPutin at a meeting with writers had loudly and distinctly accusedKhodorkovsky of involvement in murders. The journalist NataliaGevorkyan writes thus about this: «..If one is to believe RIA«Novosti», «in the words of the press-secretary of the premier, Putindeclared that mentioning about Khodorkovsky and other figurants in thiscase, the main thing – is to remember that they were accessory in themurders of people and this has been proven by a court».
Do you know anything about this fact from the life of the YUKOSfigurants and Putino-Russian reality? I – don’t. Apparently, judgeDanilkin was supposed to have invited the witness Putin, so that thisone would clarify to the court from where he has such data.

4. Opinion
On the website I found such adescription of the judicial process : «…The current court – is aphenomenon boring in principle, routine, extraordinarily sleep-inducingand, what is the main thing, deprived of prominent intrigue. Thereforethe view of an outside, even a not-impartial, observer, not havingeither the strength or the abilities to catch the essence of what istaking place in the main theme of the judicial musical score,invariably and cunningly slipping away from comprehension, inevitablyseeks meaning in side, extracurricular motives. And even not in them -in the movements of the conductor, in the turn of the head of thecellist, in the color of the violist’s dress».

5. Conclusions

The trial from the point of view of jurisprudence does not havemeaning. All have buried themselves in the study of documents of whichhardly a hundred sheets have anything at all to do with the essence ofthe charge brought against Khodorkovsky and Lebedev.

The defendants are losing time and health – that is, life itself.

The lawyers are wasting time and health, a bit less than theirclients, but still. In the professional sense, it’s hardly likely thatthey’re growing, all the more so given that their opponents are nottroubling themselves to search for killer evidence of the guilt of thedefendants.

The judge is acquiring experience in conducting judicial processesin an economic case, but it’s hardly likely that this will be of use tohim in the future. It can be seen that he can not refuse to conductthis trial.

The organized procuratorial grouping, I suppose, is certainlybecoming smarter – thanks to the experience, erudition, andprofessional preparation of the lawyers and the defendants. Every daythey TEACH this grouping: to know their way around laws and economics.Besides the acquisition of experience – even against their will – theywill no doubt acquire awards from the executive power. At the veryleast for industriousness in a knowingly «lifeless» trial process.