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Interfax Censors Khodorkovsky Interview

Russia’s Interfax news agency has, rather remarkably, picked up yesterday’s sensational interview with Mikhail Khodorkovsky in the Sunday Times. But with a twist. While the emphasis of the Sunday Times article is clearly on Khodorkovsky’s naming of Igor Sechin as the instigator of his arrest and the destruction of Yukos, the far more innocuous «Interfax» article doesn’t mention Sechin at all, effectively ignoring the first third of the Sunday Times piece. Instead, its much softer headline reads “Khodorkovsky believes that the outcome of his case depends on judicial reform in the RF”. While this may not sound very controversial in English, we must not forget that most Russians have no faith whatsoever in the country’s judicial system (and rightly so!) or its ability to reform, so they naturally interpret such a phrase as meaning Khodorkovsky’s fate is hopeless. I want to emphasize this – here is a vivid illustration of the way the Russian press has been subtly (and not so subtly) manipulated in order to achieve an intended emotional impact on the Russian public throughout my client’s ordeal.

For example, the «Interfax» translation farcically reduces Khodorkovsky’s massive show trial to a mere lawsuit. The translation also seems to make little punctuational distinction between Khodorkovsky’s words and the author’s. And most unusually, the «Interfax» article makes reference to Themis, the Greek goddess of justice (the one with the blindfold holding the scales) – supposedly in a direct citation from the Sunday Times piece. I’ve gone back and looked at the original, and can assure you that Themis’s name is as conspicuously absent there as Sechin’s is in the Russian article. I don’t know where the «Interfax» translator pulled that one from. Below is our exclusive translation of the way «Interfax» reported on the Sunday Times interview with Mikhail Khodorkovsky. If you compare it carefully with the original, I’m sure you’ll find many more subtle distortions.

BRITAIN-KHODORKOVSKY19.05.2008Khodorkovsky believes that the outcome of his case depends on judicial reform in the RFLondon. 19 May. INTERFAX – Former «YUKOS» head Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who is serving time, is not experiencing particular illusions relative to the possibility of being freed from confinement soon. The newspaper “Sunday times” cites the utterances of M. Khodorkovsky, who is found in the investigative isolator of Chita, in an article dedicated to the fate of the ex-head of “YUKOS”.“The outcome of my case depends not on how quickly will start the reform of the judicial system that Medvedev (president of the RF), according to his words, wants to carry out. In an independent court only a complete idiot could have satisfied such a lawsuit as was filed against me. Unfortunately, reforms are not carried out in one day, although certain steps by Medvedev’s team give reason for cautious optimism”, the newspaper cites M. Khodorkovsky.As is said in the publication “Sunday times”, “many consider the Khodorkovsky case a symbol of the selectiveness of Russia’s Themis and the doubtfulness of the judicial system existing in this country: even certain foes of Khodorkovsky admit that the trial with respect to his case was a real farce.” “When Medvedev promised to restore legality, many supporters of Khodorkovsky started to hope that he will sign an order on the pardon of the oligarch languishing in jail”, notes the author of the article.“Khodorkovsky refused to comment on the variant with a pardon”, writes the “Sunday times”. “Before Medvedev will be able to act independently, says he, a certain time must pass: ‘Over the course of some time his personal obligations before Putin will constrain Medvedev’.”The author likewise cites M. Khodorkovsky’s utterances about how he is enduring confinement: “The most difficult for me – separation with family, with my elderly parents, with wife and four children, he recounted [punctuation sic here and below]. They visit me, but in the colony the conditions were much better. And now they must travel 4 thousand miles for two-three hours.”“They are constantly reminding me that I will be sitting in jail until a special directive, says Khodorkovsky, who now is studying the materials of his case. When one term expires, they will add a new one, and I can forget about conditional early release. I am found under video surveillance around the clock. My cellmates’ nerves usually fail after half a year, but I’m holding on for now. Several years in jail, in isolation this is not easy, but tolerable. I have always read a lot, and now have begun to read even more. The possibility to engage in self-education and to reflect – these are the big plusses of jail confinement”, the “Sunday times” cites his words.