Sometimes you MUST look a gift horse in the mouth… Commentary by Grigory Pasko, journalist On 8 March at a press conference on the occasion of a meeting with Bundeskanzler Angela Merkel, as is known, Putin did not respond to the question of whether or not the ex-head of YUKOS, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, sentenced to eight years of imprisonment, would be pardoned. Instead, he mumbled something indistinct about how if a certain procedure is followed, when a convict writes a petition on pardon, nothing impedes an elected president from examining this petition.
In connection with this, my thoughts went back to January of the year 2002. A solitary-confinement cell of the Vladivostok jail. Bars instead of a window. Beyond the window – twenty below zero. A little warmer inside the cell. This wasn’t the first time I was warming a sleeping-pallet in this jail. And the second time, this was taking place from 25 December of the year 2001.Anyway, on one of the January days a whole delegation came in to me in the cell: the warden of the jail, his deputies, the procurator of the city, and a whole bunch of other people I didn’t know. They brought a sheet of paper and said: write a petition, president Putin has said that he’ll pardon you. For some reason, right away I didn’t even start thinking, and just told the whole delegation with their president that they could go where the sun don’t shine.And when they left, and when the temperature outside the window fell even lower, I did some very serious thinking indeed. By that time, even the television was showing what, where, and how Putin had said with respect to my pardon. This was on 15 January 2002 during the time of his visit to France. Following the results of a meeting with Jacques Chirac, responding to a question of journalists about my fate, Putin said the following: “This is a problem of a purely juridical character. Frankly speaking, I have not delved so deeply into it. I know only that Mr. Pasko is being presented with a charge in connection with his having transferred documents with the classification “secret” for remuneration to representatives of a foreign state. This fact itself is not even being contested by anyone, in my opinion, even his lawyers. Although I am having difficulty to say [anything] about the details, I simply don’t know.“But it’s unlikely that the actual content still represents some kind of state interest. Therefore, I think that this is purely already a question of a formal character, I don’t consider that I should interfere in the judicial process. If we go along this path, nothing good in Russia will we build, there won’t be any law-based state. Because in our country, like in any other country that calls itself democratic, a separation has to be in effect between the power and the court. This is , happily, the independent branches of power.“Why do I quote him in such detail? Because it’s necessary. First, this case was never, right from the very beginning, “purely juridical”. It was purely political, custom-ordered and falsified by employees of the FSB. Second, Putin lied when he said that the fact “is not even being contested by … lawyers.” It’s being contested to this day: since the year 2002, the case is found in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and is awaiting its examination. Third, no separation of powers in Russia, naturally, existed then or now. And I think that Putin, as a «Petersburgian jurist», has made no small contribution to the fact that it does not exist.And how did the whole affair with the pardon end? I’ll repeat myself: I refused right off the bat, on intuition. Then I thought about it and even just about talked myself into writing that petition on pardon: after all, all normal people would surely understand that I had not committed the crime [in Russian practice, a petition for a pardon is regarded as a de facto admission of guilt—Trans.] But here, all of a sudden, unexpectedly my wife came to visit me in the jail. Before I even had a chance to tell her, she said she knew what I was thinking about right now. And she added succinctly: don’t even think about it. Here’s how she explained it: if you write a petition on pardon, that is, from a legal point of view – admit your non-existent guilt – the chekists will immediately announce this to everybody, articles will appear in the mass media about how “the spy Pasko confessed after all”, while in actuality none of them have even the slightest intention of releasing you, not even in their dreams. They’ll deceive you!I didn’t write that petition. I then sat a long time in jail still, then I sat another half year in a strict-regime colony… And to this day I don’t regret that I did not cave in before Putin.And then there was the incident with the scholar from the USA and Canada Institute, Igor Sutyagin, whom they locked up in the year 1999. For a long time, he did not write a petition on pardon precisely because this Jesuitic act assumes an admission of guilt. It is not easy for an innocent person to bring himself to do something like this. Igor brought himself after eight years of imprisonment. He wrote the petition. He waited for the president’s decision. With hope. AND PUTIN DID NOT PARDON HIM!I think it is for naught that lawyer Genrikh Padva considers Putin’s words about a possible pardon for Khodorkovsky to be a landmark event. First, I’ll repeat myself – you can’t trust Putin, not about anything. Second, even if we assume that they do allow new president Medvedev to exhibit humanity with the aim of creating an image as a liberal and democrat, will Mikhail Khodorkovsky agree to admit his guilt? Third, let’s imagine a situation where Khodorkovsky writes a petition, but Medvedev refuses to pardon him? Can’t you just see the sneering grin on Putin’s face?Of course I do understand how difficult it is for Khodorkovsky now. (At any rate, on the strength of my own experience, I understand better than some others do). And I do want to think that with the coming of a new president the chekists will become kinder (everything has already been plundered, the spheres of influence have been carved up, the opposition has been squeezed to near-suffocation…). And I do want Mikhail Borisovich to be able to return to his family, his wife and children, as soon as possible… But because I know the true essence of the chekists, I have to say: don’t believe them, they’ll deceive you. They’ve done it before, many times. And I harbor no illusions about the new president, because I am convinced that he’s a puppet.