"SOVEST" ("Conscience")

The support group
for Mikhail Khodorkovsky and other defendants in the YUKOS case 




December 12, 2005

119991, Moscow, Ul. Zhitnaya, No. 14
To: Yuri Ivanovich Kalinin
FPS Director
Federal Penitentiary Service

Dear Yuri Ivanovich:

In its ruling of September 22, 2005, the Moscow City Court upheld the judgment of the conviction of Mikhail Borisovich Khodorkovsky, former head of the YUKOS [oil company], and Platon Leonidovich Lebedev, former head of [international financial institution] MENATEP, whereby they were condemned to 8 years of imprisonment in a general regime penal colony. We believe the judgment of conviction to be unlawful and unwarranted and we shall use whatever legal means are available to us to have this reviewed in a fair and unbiased process.

But it is equally important to us to ensure that the rights of of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev are observed during their detention in these penitentiaries. We believe that that is the task of all of us. Every citizen, including high-ranking officials, should be motivated to see that the penal system as a structure of the state is an element worthy of our Constitution, with principles of law and humanity above all, rather than a place in which tyranny rules and human rights are flouted.

In light of the above, we question the validity of the choice of location for Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev to serve out their sentences.

As you know, Platon Lebedev was taken [moved under guard by special travel arrangements] to an FGU [Federal State Institution] IK-3 [IK: corrective colony, short for corrective labor colony, i.e., labor camp] at the village of Kharp in the Yamalo-Nenets AO [autonomous okrug, i.e., district], situated beyond the Arctic Circle. However, the Russian Federation Justice Ministry No. 346/254 List of Medical Contraindications for the serving of sentences in certain parts of the Russian Federation by offenders sentenced to imprisonment, a list that was enacted under an Order of the Public Health Ministry of the Russian Federation, reads: "The medical contraindications for serving of sentences in: ... the Yamalo-Nenets autonomous okrug are: ...chronic recurrent and progressive conditions of the digestive organs (chronic active hepatitis...)".

We feel it necessary to draw your attention to the fact that Platon Lebedev suffers from serious chronic conditions, including hepatitis, which becomes acute on a regular basis. The diagnosis for Platon Lebedev has been confirmed by medical experts and documented several times.

Furthermore, Article 73 of the RF Correctional Code provides for the convicted offender to serve his or her sentence in the constituent territory of the federation in which he or she has been living or has committed the crime.

However, neither Lebedev nor Khodorkovsky has been sent to serve their sentences in a colony in Moscow or the Moscow Region (Khodorkovsky is currently in colony IK-10 (YaG 14/10) in the town of Krasnokamensk in the Chita region). The reason given is that the Moscow Region has no suitable colony at all, but this does not seem to us to be adequately convincing.

In light of the facts and statutes cited above, as well as in the name of protecting a fundamental human right – the right to life – we appeal to you to take into account the gravity of the medical condition of Platon Lebedev and look into whether it is possible to have him transferred to a penal colony with a more congenial climate, for example, one in Moscow or the Moscow Region.

We also urge you to change the penitentiary facility where Mikhail Khodorkovsky is being held for a colony in Moscow or the Moscow Region.

Sincerely yours,

Sovest independent non-governmental group:

  1. Anna Azarina, financial expert, Moscow
  2. Vera Vasiliyeva, journalist, Moscow
  3. Dmitry Garmash, Moscow
  4. Leo Golovin, financial expert, Moscow-Paris
  5. Gera Gorlova, pensioner, Moscow
  6. Oksana Darchuk, teacher, Stavropol
  7. Marina Drachenko, librarian at the RNB [Russian National Library], St. Petersburg
  8. Tatiana Kossinova, journalist, society "Memorial", St. Petersburg
  9. Maria Kotomina, Moscow
  10. Morar Natalia, student, Moscow
  11. Maksim Milovanov, writer and entrepreneur, Nizhny Novgorod
  12. Marie-Noelle Pane, Slavonic philologist, Paris and Moscow
  13. Vladimir Panteleyev, chairman of the board of Nizhny Novgorod Society of Victims of Communist Terror, Nizhny Novgorod
  14. Sergey Trifonov, deputy of municipal duma, Moscow
  15. Elena Fetissova, teacher, Moscow



This appeal was joined by:

  1. Ludmila Alekseeva, Helsinky Group, Moscow

  2. Evgenia Albats, journalist, Moscow

  3. Andrey Babushkin, member of the Council Representative at the Ministry of Justice, Moscow

  4. Nikita Belykh, party SPS ("Union of the Right Forces"), Moscow

  5. Evgeny Bounimovich, party "Yabloko", Moscow

  6. Grigory Djibladze, Centre of the Democracy Development and Human Rights Protection, Moscow

  7. Garri Kasparov, "Committee 2008", OGF ("United Civil Front"), Moscow

  8. Alexey Kondaurov, deputy of State Duma, Moscow

  9. Sergey Mitrokhin, party "Yabloko", Moscow

  10. Alexey Navalny, party "Yabloko", Moscow

  11. Boris Nadezhdin, party SPS ("Union of the Right Forces"), Moscow

  12. Alexander Nikitin, ecologist, St. Petersburg

  13. Elena Panfilova, Transparency International, Moscow

  14. Sergey Parkhomenko, journalist, "Committee 2008", Moscow

  15. Grigory Pasko, journalist, Russia

  16. Georgy Saratov, Fond INDEM, Moscow

  17. Olga Sedakova, writer, Moscow

  18. Ivan Starikov, Democratic Party of Russia, Moscow

  19. Boris Strugatsky, writer, St. Petersburg

  20. Irina Khakamada, party "Nash Vybor" ("Our Choice"), Democratic Party of Russia, Moscow

  21. Victor Shenderovich, writer,  "Committee 2008", Moscow

  22. Alexey Yablokov, party "Zelenaya Rossia" ("Green Russia"), Moscow

  23. Grigory Yavlinsky, party "Yabloko", Moscow

  24. Igor Yakovenko, General Secretary of the Union of Journalists of Russia, Moscow

  25. Gleb Yakunin, priest, Moscow


The complete list of signatures is available here


Sovest  ("Conscience" in Russian), an independent public group, was created Dec. 3, 2003, to provide public support to the YUKOS shareholders and employees. Our principal purpose is to make the authorities respect civil rights of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and other defendants in the YUKOS case. The main goal of the group today is to use all legal means insisting that victims of the Yukos case be released from incarceration, and to claim an impartial, open and fair trial. The group is non-commercial and totally independent from any political or financial affiliations. All activities are conducted on a voluntary and gratuitous basis.