Natan Sharansky: “Free Khodorkovsky Now”

sharansky_time040609.jpgThe former dissident, author, and famous democracy activist Natan Sharansky has published a short article after visiting Russia this week, in which he calls upon the Kremlin to “free Khodorkovsky now.”  Sharansky talks with human rights activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva (whom we’ve interviewed on video for this blog), who was attending the second show trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and is struck by the resemblance to the legal proceedings of the darkest Soviet days.

That same night, I visited the apartment of Liudmila Alexeeva. Once upon a lifetime, more than 30 years ago, we founded the Moscow Helsinki Group to monitor the situation of human rights in the USSR. Back then, in one year, all the members of our group were either arrested, exiled to sunny Siberia, or sent abroad. Today, Liudmila Alexeeva is the last of the Mohicans. Having returned from the U.S. to Russia, she continues to toil away in her field – heading the Helsinki group in Moscow. And what does she do while I participate in an academic seminar for democracy? She sits in a pew at the second trial of Mikhail Khodorkovski, and at the end of the day she shares her thoughts with me.

“Tolia, it reminds me so much of the trials against the dissidents. Mikhail looks so much more spiritual, better even, than five years ago during his first trial. He looks like a free and liberated man. And how petty and frightened do his sanctioned accusers appear. It’s like a snapshot from our past” …

The past must remain in the past – that is probably the main ideabehind the proposal of “resetting” the relations between Russia andUSA. Leading Russian officials speak openly about what they expect theAmericans to offer in order to set things right. Rarely, however, dothey ever say what Russia should be willing to offer, what concessionsthe Kremlin could make to show the world that the hope of warmerrelations and democratization is not just another illusion.

Here’s one suggestion. Free Khodorkovsky now.