Pinning the Remaining Hopes on Medvedev

Brian Whitmore over at the Power Vertical has a blog post up on the coming Mikhail Khodorkovsky trial:

Critics say the case — like Khodorkovsky’s 2005 trial in which he was convicted of tax evasion and fraud and sentenced to eight years in prison — is a fabricated and made-to-order affair to make sure that he stays in prison for the foreseeable future.

After serving half of his eight year sentence, Khodorkovsky is eligible to apply for early release. He has already been denied parole once, but the Kremlin apparently doesn’t want to take any chances. A conviction in the new trial could lead to an additional sentence as long as 27 years.

In a recent interviewwith Vladimir Kara-Murza of RFE/RL’s Russian Service, AleksandrOsovtsov, a member of the opposition group Solidarity, said the newtrial will put Medvedev’s recent overtures to the liberal oppositionand pledges to establish an independent justice system to the test:

ForMedvedev the situation is very interesting. Because while this is thesecond Khodorkovsky trial, it is the first one for Medvedev aspresident. All this is a test of all his talk about how freedom isbetter than the lack of freedom, and [his promises to] make courts moreindependent. It is a moment of truth. If there is another guiltyverdict then nobody among those who hoped and counted on changes fromMedvedev will have any more illusions about this. Whether Medvedevlikes it or not, the Khodorkovsky and Lebedev trial has become the onlyfactor whether or not his declarations will be trusted.

Khodorkovsky’s mother, Marina Khodorkovskaya, also says she is placing her hope in Medvedev:

Ihope that our new president — who isn’t a Petersburg bandit, but aperson from a good academic family who is a lawyer by education — willnot behave in such a lawless manner like those previous comrades.

Accordingto Khodorkovsky himself — as well as his supporters and independentobservers who followed his case closely — the main instigator of theKremlin’s campaign against him was First Deputy Prime Minister IgorSechin. After Khodorkovsky’s Yukos oil company was broken up, themajority of its assets were taken over by the state-run oil giantRosneft, which Sechin chairs.

Opposition politician Vladimir Ryzhkovsays anybody placing their hopes in Medvedev will be severelydisappointed. Speaking to Andrey Shary of RFE/RL’s Russian Service,Ryzhkov said whatever Medvedev might want to do, he isn’t the onecalling the shots:

Thetransfer of authority [to Medvedev] was strictly cosmetic. VladimirPutin is still in charge. And by all appearances, the  people who madethe decision [to initiate a new criminal case against Khodorkovsky andLebedev]  are the same people who made the decision several years agoto destroy Yukos.