US State Dept Condemns New Charges Against Khodorkovsky

Today US State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack issued the following comments in response to the new charges applied to Mikhail Khodorkovsky:

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the charges that were brought against him today? MR. MCCORMACK: As a matter of fact, I do have something right here. I have something prepared on this. Let me read it to you. As we have commented in connection with the original trial, the continued prosecution of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the dismantlement of Yukos raise serious questions about the rule of law in Russia. Khodorkovsky and his associate, Platon Lebedev, would have been eligible to apply for parole this year, having served half of their terms. These new charges would likely preclude their early release. Many of the actions in the case against Khodorkovsky and Yukos have raised serious concerns about the independence of courts, sanctity of contracts and property rights, and the lack of a predictable tax regime. The conduct of Russian authorities in the Khodorkovsky Yukos affair has eroded Russia’s reputation and confidence in Russian legal and judicial institutions. Such actions as this and other cases raise questions about Russia’s commitment to the responsibilities which all democratic, free market economies countries embrace. QUESTION: Have you contacted the Russians about this and voiced your frustration? MR. MCCORMACK: I think it just only happened either overnight or within the past day or so. I would expect that we would, at an appropriate time and at the appropriate level, raise it. I don’t believe Secretary Rice raised this with Foreign Minister Lavrov. I don’t think that this has come out in public yet. QUESTION: But did you raise various human rights and other issues with Foreign Minister Lavrov when he was here, or was it all Middle East, Iraq, all the time? MR. MCCORMACK: For the meetings that I were in — and I wasn’t in all of them — she talked about Iran, they talked about the Middle East, obviously the Quartet meeting, talked a little bit about Kosovo. They talked about various bilateral issues, trade issues and such. I don’t — I wasn’t there for any conversations about political and economic reform in Russia, but it’s a topic that the Secretary does frequently raise with Foreign Minister Lavrov.