RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – Dec 31, 2010

31russiaspan-cnd-articleLarge.jpgTODAY: Khodorkovsky receives maximum sentence; decision met with flurry of international criticism, talk of court under pressure.  The Kremlin urges calm in Korean peninsula; record drug confiscation; Chapman TV appearance; Strategy 31 protests scheduled for today; protesters pessimistic about outcome

The Khodorkovsky trial has culminated in the defendant receiving the maximum sentence of 14 years in prison; the new term will be dated from his arrest in 2003, which means that he will be released in 2017.  Business partner Platon Lebedev received 13 years and 6 months.  The verdict has been called ‘cruel and absurd’ by rights campaigner Lyudmila Alexeyeva.  To see a run down of the numerous critical responses, both domestic and international, see Reuters.  The pair will not seek a pardon.  US State Department spokesman Mark Toner has said that the US remains ‘concerned by the allegations of serious due process violations, and what appears to be an abusive use of the legal system for improper ends’.  In addition, a senior Obama administration official has implied that the sentencing of Khodorkovsky may ‘complicate’ Russia’s bid to join the WTO.

This contradicts Russia’s frequently repeated intention to pursue fulladoption of the rule of law’,is German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s take on proceedings.  EU High Representative Catherine Ashton has concurred in a statement that, ‘allegations have been made of irregularities in the proceedings, and these are a matter of serious concern and disappointment to us’.  A Moscowcourt official has told reporters that the trial came under unprecedented media pressure’.   To see scenes from inside the courtroom, view RFE/RL’s video report, including the statement from Mr Khodorkovsky’s lawyer, Yuri Schmidt.  The Economist suggests that the ruling bodes ill for reform-touting Medvedev.
Is Ukraine taking a leaf out of Russia’s book when it comes to cracking down on the political opposition?   Russia’s Foreign Ministry has advised the saber-rattling Koreas to ‘move from muscle flexing to dialogue’.  Following the snow fiasco, the Director of Moscow’s Domodedovo airport has been sacked.  [X]enophobia, extremism, terrorism, drug crime, illegal immigration and corruption’: Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has highlighted these as the greatest threats to law and order in Moscow in 2011.  In 2010 Russian authorities reportedly seized a record-breaking 50 tons of illegal drugs.  No prizes for guessing who TV host Andrei Malakhov has called ‘without exaggeration the woman of the year’ .

Police have arrested another suspect in the attack on Khimki activist Konstantin Fetisov.  ‘I expect to be detained’: protest-organizer Eduard Limonov anticipates how he will welcome in the New Year.

PHOTO: Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky was sentenced on embezzlement charges on Thursday in Moscow.  (Denis Sinyakov/Reuters)