Grigory Pasko: Blood and Oil

cel-1.jpgHalf an hour before the start of the latest court day in the Khamovnichesky Court the public was discussing Putin’s words about Khodorkovsky, attributed to him by the Polish journalist Adam Michnik. I shall remind readers that, in the words of the Gazeta Wyborcza, during the question about Khodorkovsky the premier’s “face changed, and he spoke about Khodorkovsky as about a killer, a bandit”. Answering, Putin said: “You do not understand anything, this is the business of our courts. As concerns legal nihilism, it’s not about state institutions, but about society. Legal nihilists – this is those people who are violating our law”. Also Putin said that Khodorkovsky’s people have blood on their hands. Если Вы хотите прочитать оригинал данной статьи на русском языке, нажмите сюда.

…When the convoyers led Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev into the courtroom, I specially looked at the hands of the defendants. Putin lied: Khodorkovsky’s hands were clean. And Lebedev’s too, while we’re on the subject.

The trial began, as usual. Many journalists, western politicians (this time – deputies of the Bundestag), bailiffs (6 persons)… I saw a face that was new to me – procurator Smirnov. And an «old», in the sense of familiar, face – television personality Posner. Judge Danilkin came in, his robe billowing wide. In it he looked like a parish priest. Where he differed was that he spoke more quietly and somehow tentatively, without confidence. When he came out of his chambers, I managed to notice on his wall a huge portrait of chairman of the Supreme Court of the RF Lebedev. An idol? A mentor?

Meanwhile the other Lebedev – the defendant – continued his many days of testimony. More precisely, this was not exactly testimony: this was an introductory elementary course for the judge and especially – for the organised procuratorial group. This time around the topic was «Oil-well fluid». Those who are even inattentively following the process of the trial of the YUKOS managers remember well the level and the heat of the procuratorial speculations on the topic of oil-well fluid. The folks who cooked up the charge were doing everything they could to convince the man in the street – and themselves as well! – that the phrase «oil-well fluid» was specially thought up by Khodorkovsky – by Lebedev in order to: a) steal all the oil produced by YUKOS; b) for deceiving their own dear state and cover up the traces of thievery.

From Lebedev’s lecture it became clear that oil-well fluid – this is not somebody’s invention, but a definition from GOST – of the Soviet times and today’s times. Lebedev named the numbers of these gosts and clarified further that in a liter of oil-well fluid there is 65% water, 5% of all kinds of impurities and salts, while 30% – is the oil proper. (Already during the writing of this article I dug in the net and immediately found GOST R 51365-00 «Equipment, oilfield, production, wellhead. General technical conditions». Item 3.74 states: «oil-well fluid – the real fluid that comes out of a well»).

From the procuratorial «wells» this definition did not flow even once.

Platon Lebedev, as always, made use of tables and graphs on a screen. Procurator Lakhtin demonstratively, challengingly did NOT look at the screen. Procurator Smirnov did look, but, it could be seen, that it was without particular interest and understanding. Lakhtin was looking at the screen of his notebook, from the upper panel of which for some reason in all of this time of the trial the cellophane film never had been removed. Maybe, they’re preserving the notebook for the next procurator? And what was the procurator trying to see on the screen? His foggy future? A general’s epaulets? The chair of a deputy procurator-general?

Already 10 minutes after the start of the hearing procurator Smirnov walked out of the courtroom. Silently. Not having said anything to the judge. As if though that one wasn’t even in the courtroom. And the judge did not react: neither with the ear, nor with the collar of the judge’s robe. As if though he weren’t at the bench. And indeed, was he? That is, Danilkin was sitting at the judge’s bench. And was even looking at the screen. And even one time yelled out into the courtroom, when a mobile phone rang there (Posner’s?): «Who’s that talking on the telephone there? Lead him out of the courtroom!» Judging by how the bailiff who leaped up never did lead anybody out of the courtroom, it is just as if though there weren’t a judge at the trial at all.

Subsequently the phones were silent. Everybody’s Other than the bailiff’s: he was playing games on his.

Lebedev was talking about how alongside the wells are always erected installations for the gathering of oil-well water. He clarified for the court it is impossible to steal oil, you could – theoretically – steal oil-well fluid, for example, at a commercial metering station. But nobody is about to do this, because you’re still going to have to separate the fluid from the water someplace later on – from the ballast, to use the professional, scientific term.
It could be seen that Lebedev knows the subject well. As well he should: in the Soviet time he was chief of the plan-economic department of «Zarubezhgeologiya» for ten years. And «Zarubezhgeologiya», as is known, was engaged in geological prospecting and drilling of wells in different corners of the world. That is, this was that same classic example when the accusers were a head (if more precisely – four heads) intellectually lower than the defendant in the knowledge of the subject of the charge.

At 11:10, an hour after the start of the hearing, exuding perfume and scorn for the courtroom, in came madam procuratrix Ibragimova. She greeted just one person in the entire courtroom – the bailiff! – and sat down in her place. Now there were 24 stars shining into the eyes of the defendants and their defenders – six units each on the epaulets of four procurators. Three of the procurators glued their eyes to the screens of notebooks. And only one of them, the most senior in age – Smirnov, stuck his nose into a sheet of paper: he didn’t have a notebook. Hadn’t earned one? Doesn’t know how to use it?

By the way, I noticed the absence in the courtroom of a person who in the first months of the trial was present without fail – a representative of «the injured party» – the state. Apparently, as the charge of stealing all the produced oil dissipated, so too did the «state-man».

After some time I understood that the procuratorial inattention to the words of the defendant Lebedev was for show: in actuality they were all keenly catching every word of the defendant’s. For what? So that at the slightest whiff of non-compliance with the Code of Criminal Procedure they could jump up and shout out that «this is not prescribed by the Code of Criminal Procedure!» It happened all of one time. For Lakhtin. Although Ibragimova too had pulled out her little talmud. Oh! This is a marvellous little piece of paper! This, as I managed to see, was a condensed summary of the entire criminal case. Literally a couple dozen sheets. The quintessence. The salt. While there are around two hundred volumes in the case file, it seems. While Ibragimova’s – wouldn’t even add up to half a volume. This was her oil. The rest of the contents of the volumes, therefore, – fluff. Water. Like in oil-well fluid.

Will this little volume help Ms. Ibragimova? Who knows. It is thought that unlikely. Because the specialist Platon Lebedev has formed a «diagnosis» for procurators: flagrant lack of knowledge of the fundamentals of economics, business in general and the ABCs of the oil industry in particular.

Judging by their collegial silence, they had no objections.

Photo by Joerg Hess