Well, the mystery is over, and the question of whether or not Barack Obama would raise human rights issues during his visit to Russia has been answered. A few hours back, the media reported that the new U.S. president mentioned, among other issues, the case of the second show trial against Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Obama was gentle on the issue, describing the charges against him as “odd.” However, the Russian president’s dedicatino to fighting legal nihilism only goes so far, and Medvedev defaulted to following the Kremlin party line on the MBK case. There was one update, however. Whereas Vladimir Putin and other officials were fond of comparing the state’s theft of Yukos to the Enron scandal in the United States, Medvedev gave the comparison an update in his interview with the Italian outlets RAI and Corriere della Serra:
MEDVEDEV: Moreover, if we are talking about issues related to business, I would have thought that they could not all be approached selectively. Now we’re in a crisis. But take a look at some of the legal processes that have taken place in other countries – there have been some real wrangles. Some businessmen have been given very long sentences: 150 years in the United States of America itself. Why is it that somehow no one is unduly upset about this case? Nevertheless, I believe that in different situations different governmental procedures apply and the reactions of different nations are perhaps going to be different. I just wanted to emphasise this point. At the end this is an individual matter.
FABRIZIO DRAGOSEI: Do you think that these casesin the United States [of Bernard Madoff etc.] and Khodorkovsky’sresemble each other? In the West they are seen as quite different. Inthe West Khodorkovsky is perceived as a man who suffered from thedismemberment of YUKOS and was convicted for not only legal andtechnical reasons but some others as well.
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: You know, perhaps my perceptionof this is different from those of other observers. I am looking at itfrom a legal point of view, the only way a President can look at it.Khodorkovsky and some other businessmen in Russia were convicted byRussian courts. This was not a political event – the decision of thejudicial authorities has to be reckoned with. All procedures involvingKhodorkovsky and other business people tried in our courts must becarried out in full accord with Russian criminal procedure law. This ismy firm conviction.
But I mentioned the case of American businessmento point out that businesses may face problems all over the world intheir relationships with the governments or specific individuals,problems that involve criminal responsibility. So to take one case andconsider it out of context seems inappropriate to me. That’s all I’msaying.
Well there is a very simple and straightforward response on my personal behalf to this argument. If Khodorkovsky were the Bernard Madoff of Russia, then President Obama would be a multi-billionaire and owner of half the companies on the New York Stock Exchange. The true Madoff of Russia exists, his name is Igor Sechin, and he just hasn’t been caught yet.