Le Monde: Putin’s Vindictiveness

The following is a translation from the French newspaper Le Monde:

Le Monde, Editorial February 8, 2008 Putin’s Vindictiveness The vindictiveness of Vladimir Putin knows no bounds. In 2005, he went after Mikhail Khodorkovsky, one of the Yeltsin era’s main oligarchs and the richest man in Russia at that time who had wanted to go into politics. It was all too easy for the Russian president to eliminate a potential rival by accusing him of tax fraud. The accusation could have been convincing if it had not served as a pretext for a settling of scores. But it was not enough for President Putin and his supporters to push Yukos’ President aside after seizing his company, one of the world’s oil giants, in order to favour others closer to the government. An 8 year jail sentence in a camp in Siberia must have seemed too light of a condemnation. Mikhail Khodokorvsky is now prosecuted for money laundering. Once more, he risks a 22 year prison sentence.

In order to satisfy a thirst for whatever kind of revenge, the government is now going after the prisoner’s closest colleagues. His lawyer, Vasily Aleksanyan, has been put in preventive detention for almost two years. Ill with AIDS, suffering from a cancer, threatened by blindness, he caught tuberculosis while in prison. He cannot be treated while in custody. It took months of international pressure to have him transferred to a specialised clinic. Himself a former Yukos vice-president, he is also accused of tax fraud. He denies this fiercely.These barbaric practices should give thought to Mr. Putin’s admirers. Neither a reference to a so- called Russian tradition, nor the search for political stability can explain this relentlessless. And now, with the justice system dependent of the government, eliminating all the candidates for presidency who could have, even symbolically, questioned the stranglehold of Putin’s clan on the Russian government and on the country’s resources, the outgoing president, who dreams only of maintaining himself in power, is showing his true character. That of the school of the secret services from the soviet regime which carried on the tsarist methods. For them, the control of individuals – one does not dare to speak of citizens – the paranoid defence of the power and the disregard for human beings were and remain, in post-communist Russia, principles of action.It is not necessarily an expression of a position of power. On the contrary. These practices, far from European values, for which Putin sometimes claims, are rather a sign of weakness. It is rather the expression of insecurity in which are living some groups which have a deep suspicion of a scorned and exploited people and who fear, correctly, that their days are counted.