A sad anniversary

It was three years ago yesterday since Mikhail Khodorkovsky had been arrested in Novosibirsk. The Kremlin’s attack on YUKOS was then at full speed, having begun in summer 2003. At that time, some bought the version that Khodorkovsky was seeking political power through the Duma, buying up votes and donating to opposition parties, and sought to sell his oil assets to a US oil major. It’s far, far more plausible now that it wasn’t something that Khodorkovsky did, rather something that the Kremlin wanted to do — to wrestle YUKOS, then the largest Russian oil company, from the hands of its owners. Putin’s junta probably offered a modest compensation to Khodorkovsky and his associates. They must have refused…

In the meantime, former YUKOS employees are suffering from the petty but vile vindictiveness which is the brand mark of Putin’s regime. I have written on Svetlana Bakhmina here, here, and here. RIA Novosti reports that Svetlana “has been sent to serve [the rest of] her six-and-a-half-year sentence in a women’s penal colony in the Central Russian republic of Mordovia.” Note that in the 1960s to the 1980s, Mordovia was home to a notorous penal camp for Soviet dissidents. Moreover, RIAN reports:

On October 2, the Simonovsky Court in Moscow rejected a request from Svetlana Bakhmina’s defense lawyers, who asked that the former deputy head of the legal department at the embattled oil company’s Yukos Moskva unit be allowed to serve her six-and-a-half-year prison term after her younger child, now aged five, turns 14.

Another YUKOS manager, a former VP, Vasily Aleksanyan, has reportedly lost eyesight while in pre-trial detention.

The West should recognize these people as victims of political persecution, even they were not imprisoned for their views, just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Putin should be seen as little more than a dirty little dictator, not as sanguinary as Stalin of course, but about as despicable as any Latin American caudillo of the 20th century.

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