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Six Years of Russian Injustice

khodorkovsky_sixth_anniversary.jpgFrom Robert Amsterdam’s latest in the Huffington Post:

But it is clear to those of us who have watched and listened to Khodorkovsky over these years that his beliefs, spirit and convictions have only deepened. When he first became a political prisoner, he was recognized as a symbol of Russia being on the wrong track: the disappearance of rule of law, corporate raiding and state theft, authoritarian drift, and the Kremlin’s first taste of using stolen assets as an energy weapon. Today, after six long years of injustice, he is emerging as an important political voice and a sign of Russian moral conscience.


These statements have been building over past months, most recently highlighted by an article he penned in Vedomosti,challenging President Dmitry Medvedev’s proclamations of reform andliberalism made some weeks earlier. Within the Putin-Medvedevtandemocracy, Khodorkovsky writes that the president is merely “playingthe classic role of the ‘good cop’ in a theatrical performance;” andthat when the president speaks about the need for a genuine civilsociety and a citizen-driven reform process without a rejection of thecurrent authoritarian system, it is only a rhetorical exercise.

A true modernization process in Russia cannot be another top downdirective from the inefficient vertical of power, Khodorkovsky writes,but rather a movement pushed by the voices of millions. As Medvedev hadpledged to incorporate responses of citizens to his article in hisstate of the union speech, he told the media recently that he had read Khodorkovsky’s article.

Though his views are political, his ambitions are moral, not personal. In a Q&A published on Gazeta.ru, Khodorkovsky writesthat he “hopes against hope” that he will soon be released and reunitedwith his family, to spend time with his children before they havealready grown into young adults. He writes that he is “far from being ahero….Today, I am just a prisoner. Nothing more, nothing less.”However he entertains no illusions about the political nature of theprocess being carried out against him: “If it’s done according to thelaw, it should be soon. But it will be when they stop being afraid,that is, never. (…) Russia will always exist and a change of power isinevitable.”

In the meantime, the theater of the absurd continues on a dailybasis at the Khamovnichesky District Court in Moscow, whereKhodorkovsky is undergoing a second show trial in which he is accusedof somehow having been able to embezzle the entire oil production ofYukos company – charges that are not only implausible and groundless,but also contradictory of the charges of the first trial. Thistheatrical performance may as well carry the title “Waiting for Putin,”as the desultory prosecutors waste away the days, as the judge awaitsthe telephone-ordered verdict from above.

As the days slip away into the maw of this judicial travesty, we’llcontinue counting the missed birthdays, fatherless holidays, schoolgraduations, anniversary dinners, weekends at home, and severedfriendships. These deprivations are investing Khodorkovsky’s words andperspectives with more and more meaning, and the people of Russia arewaking up to it. Isn’t it time that the international community beginto do the same?