White Paper: Abuse of State Authority in the Russian Federation

Download the full text (pdf) of the White Paper (78 pages).

We’re proud to debut the public distribution of this seminal document, which contains not only an extensive review of the Kremlin’s legal violations and misconduct in their persecution of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the theft of Yukos, demonstrating the illegitimacy of the new charges, but also places these events within a systemic perspective of Russia’s backslide into authoritarianism and the consolidation of the “vertical of power.”

The research and facts gathered herein should be considered required reading for Russia observers, irregardless of the immediate concerns of or positions on the individual case. What follows is the executive summary – for citations, evidence, and further detail, please consult the full text version.



In the spring of 2003, the Kremlin decided that Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s vision and actions in favour of a vibrant civil society, and market-based competition in the energy sector, were incompatible with its ideology and political goals. Mr Khodorkovsky’s subsequent arrest, show trial and disproportionate sentence on trumped-up charges were used as a legal pretext to incarcerate him in a Siberian prison camp. Bogus and exorbitant tax assessments were used as a cover to steal the prime asset of Yukos – Russia’s most successful energy company, headed by Mr Khodorkovsky. The Kremlin has brought new charges against Mr Khodorkovsky for reasons that have nothing to do with justice, a legitimate concern for upholding Russian law, or punishing criminal behaviour.

These charges are brought to:

• Ensure that Mr Khodorkovsky is not released in October 2007, when he would be eligible for release under current Russian law and practice;

• Ensure that Mr Khodorkovsky has no opportunity to play an active role shaping Russia’s political future, or opposing Russia’s current course;

• Legitimise the past state campaign against Mr Khodorkovsky; • Legitimise a series of upcoming fraudulent acquisitions by Russian state-owned enterprises of the remaining Yukos assets, worth $33 billion; and

• Legitimise the seizure of whatever remaining assets Mr Khodorkovsky may have abroad through the artifice of money laundering charges.

Before his arrest in 2003, Mr Khodorkovsky had publicly set out a clear vision for Russia. He exercised his civil rights to become involved in politics, providing support for a more vibrant political system. He was committed to the growth of civil society and had become the first great modern Russian philanthropist, supporting pro-democracy programmes. When it became clear that the state was going to move against his vision and beliefs, he stayed to fight. He could have fled, but in a testament to his character and to his conviction of innocence, he stood his ground. Mr Khodorkovsky had hoped his country would become a socially progressive, market-oriented democracy.

As the head of the country’s largest oil company, he was an advocate for the integration of Russia into the global market through Russian free enterprise over state monopoly. He promoted a variety of initiatives: the construction of new, privately funded pipelines to facilitate energy exports to China and the United States; the liberalisation and the break-up of state monopolies; the adoption of Western standards of corporate governance; and increased investment by international oil companies to augment off-shore production.

Mr Khodorkovsky also spoke out about the need to stamp out the pervasive state corruption which had created tremendous economic distortions. This vision clashed with the Kremlin’s agenda, and as a result of Khodorkovsky’s persecution, Russia has moved not toward democracy, but toward authoritarianism, not toward liberalisation, but toward monopoly, not toward justice, but only toward attempts to mask corruption with legal fictions.

The new proceedings against Mr Khodorkovsky are a miscarriage of justice in the context of a system of total injustice. There is nowhere in Russia that this defendant can have a fair trial, because those who have the power to control the legal system have an interest, both materially and personally, in the finding of guilt. Rather than being isolated events, the persecution of Mr Khodorkovsky and expropriation of Yukos were pivotal developments in the implementation of the Kremlin’s political agenda – the elimination of any competing centres of power, and the eradication of any effective separation of powers through the consolidation of a “vertical of power” in the Kremlin.

In fulfilling this political agenda, the Kremlin has:

• Consolidated power into the hands of the so-called military and security siloviki, who have eliminated or marginalised voices for market-based economic reform in Russia;

• Pulled back from the development of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Russia;

• Instrumentalised the legal system to engage in the ongoing capture of energy assets of both domestic and foreign investors; and

• Manipulated energy assets to project Russian state power over the near abroad and Europe, and destabilised international security through the uncontrolled sale of nuclear and arms technology to gain further energy leverage with key competitors.

As a result, the ongoing persecution of Khodorkovsky, the theft of Yukos, and the implementation of the Kremlin agenda has far-reaching implications for the international community. It threatens the national security, energy security and political stability of all democratic nations committed to the rule of law. Those who bring these charges against Mr Khodorkovsky have overseen the greatest theft in modern history – the theft of Yukos. They have destabilised the world’s energy markets, extorted some of its largest companies, co-opted some of its leading political figures, and their actions have been met largely with complicity and silence. They have turned Russia back into a country where property rights are politically determined, and where contract murders of journalists and reformers occur regularly, this practice apparently having been recently exported. One man has faced them down. This White Paper deals with his fate.

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