Dear Madam Secretary General,
We, members of an independent public group named Sovest (the Russian word for “Conscience”), present you our compliments and would like to address Amnesty International in connection with the case of Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, the former CEO of the oil company YuKOS, who currently occupies the position of the Chairman of the Board of the regional public organization Otkrytaya Rossiya (Open Russia), and Platon L. Lebedev, CEO of Menatep Group, a YuKOS stockholder.
More than eight months have passed since Amnesty International made an official reply to an appeal made in May 2004 by several Russian human rights groups, including Moscow Helsinki Group, Human Rights Institute, and Memorial. They requested that the prisoner of conscience status be granted to Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev.
In your reply, you expressed hope for a further dialog with the people who had filed the appeal, and, in particular, you kindly requested them to forward any additional information that might become available, which, in their opinion, could pertain to the case in question and confirm their apprehensions that the court proceedings launched against Mikhail Khodorkovsky and other co-defendants might be politically-motivated. This, you said, might make it possible for you to reconsider your attitude towards that case and contemplate the possibility of undertaking some further steps on your part.
In this regard, we thought it expedient to revert to you with a new letter (our first one was dated Feb. 13, 2004) and inform you of some new facts concerning the so-called “YuKOS case” and Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s various activities prior to his incarceration. We realize that the reserved attitude of Amnesty International towards the case has been motivated by that fact that Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s image as a big businessman and “oligarch” is strikingly different from the common notion of a political prisoner. But we must stress that such an idea of the YuKOS former CEO is somewhat incomplete and, consequently, inadequate. This incomplete idea has to a large extent been imposed on the general public by Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s persecutors as part of an assiduously-directed and continuously-run campaign aiming to undermine his reputation in the eyes of Russian and international communities. We believe that Amnesty International must have no more illusions whatsoever that some economic motives might ostensibly have been behind the “YuKOS case” (the motives that are displayed in the foreground). In fact, all the claims launched against Mr. Khodorkovsky concerning allegedly unpaid taxes are but a cover for the reprisals against disagreeable opponents. After all, the Soviet authorities also used to put on trial and then send to jail writers, poets and human rights advocates, charging them with “economic crimes,” such as social parasitism, hard currency shenanigans, etc.
This is a time-tested method of doing away with dissenters.
We would like to draw your attention to those aspects of the “YuKOS case” and Mr. Khodorkovsky’s activities, which, in our view, give very important grounds to consider him a political prisoner, together with such renowned and highly respected human rights advocates as Elena Bonner, Lyudmila Alexeeva, Arseny Roginsky, and Alla Gerber. Those aspects include, in particular:
1) political motives in the “YuKOS case”;
2) Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s activities in the area of human rights;
3) violations of various statutes, which have been taking place in the course of the court hearing of the Khodorkovsky–Lebedev case;
4) significance of the trial for entire Russian society.
Please find in the attachments hereto some analyses covering these four subject matters.
Time flies. Platon Lebedev has been being incarcerated for more than 18 months already. Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been staying under arrest in the pre-trial detention center for more than 15 months. As it is universally known, Platon Lebedev is very seriously ill and is in a dire need of qualified medical assistance. Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s health has also been impaired by long months of incarceration.
We are convinced that the granting of the political prisoner (or prisoner of conscience) status to Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev would make a highly important contribution to the protection of their civil rights and, ultimately, would advance their release and return to normal life and activities.
We will be very grateful to you for your attention and support.
Please, dear Madam, accept the assurances of our highest consideration.
Group Sovest (Conscience), an independent public group in support of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and other defendants in the “YuKOS case.”
Feb. 22, 2005
Sovest (Conscience), an independent public group (www.sovest.org), 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 Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev be released from incarceration during the trial, and to claim an impartial, open and fair trial of their case.
The group is non-commercial and totally independent from any political affiliations. All activities are conducted on a voluntary and gratuitous basis.
Tel.: (095) 722-8477
That the “YuKOS case” has a political component is almost universally recognized by various public figures, businessmen and even officials representing different government authorities. To illustrate the range of opinions, we will give just two statements made by persons who objectively belong to the two antagonistic sides in the dispute around YuKOS and its shareholders.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky, June 2003 (immediately after Platon Lebedev’s arrest): “We are witnessing a struggle for power, which has begun between different wings within the close circle around [Russian President] Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. This is the beginning of the struggle for power, which will finish up after the [presidential] election in March . It is perfectly clear now, at least to myself, that Putin is going to win and be reelected for the second term in office. But who will be included in the second row of the [president’s] team, that is, certainly, a big question now.” (Vedomosti, June 7, 2003)
Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said after his speech at the international conference “Russia after the Election: Great Expectations”: “One cannot deny that there is a political component in the “YuKOS case.” The company itself has manifested this component more than once, taking part in political activities [in Russia].” Gref denies, however, that the political component is the key point in the criminal proceedings against the oil company and its shareholders, saying that “the key point is the presence or absence of certain elements in the company’s behavior, which permit criminal or administrative prosecution, including that connected with non-payment of taxes.”
But notwithstanding what representatives of the authorities may declare, the greater part of the socially active population adheres to a totally different opinion in this regard. They believe that the “YuKOS case” has nothing to do either with strict compliance with the law or with the combat against corruption, and for the following reasons:
· in the “YuKOS case,” we are witnessing discriminatory use of statutory regulations: claims related to the application of so-called “tax optimization schemes” have been made against one company only, namely YuKOS, while absolutely similar methods have been used by almost all businesses, and sometimes on a far greater scale than by YuKOS (it must be noted in this respect that such actions were absolutely legal at the time);
· the laws are being made to have a retroactive force, i.e. Mr. Khodorkovsky and his co-defendants are being prosecuted for the actions which had nothing illegal about them when performed;
· none of the representatives of the government authorities, in particular of the tax authorities, who have recognized for a long time that the company’s tax practices have been in compliance with the laws, has been criminally charged.
In our view, the true reasons behind the company and Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s prosecution lie in the desire of some strata of the powers that be to build such a state in Russia that would be absolutely homogeneous and yielding in every respect to the political will of the supreme authorities. This model of society does not tolerate any independent power resources in the country, such as wide public associations, regional elites and powerful financial and industrial groups. Having assumed the priority of private property as the foundation for the country’s economic development, the current supreme authorities in Russia decided to shield themselves from emergence of any likely influential opponents and to do it by means of transferring major assets into the hands of absolutely loyal businessmen (“loyal” in their opinion).
It must be noted that historically this is not an altogether new practice for Russia, while in the modern history of the rest of the world it naturally has no parallels whatsoever. The practice was started by Tsar Ivan the Terrible who set up the so-called “oprichnina” (secret police) to do away with the boyars (Russia’s ancient aristocracy), when the “untrustworthy” boyars were deprived of their possessions, which were then passed to the reliable ones. The Bolsheviks “improved” these methods and brought them to “perfection,” the logical outcome of which was eradication of all private property in the country. Thus, they ruled out the possibility of emergence of any really influential political opponents.
While declaring their adherence to liberal economic and political principles, the elite currently in power cannot, however, break itself from the sentiments peculiar to the Soviet era, and, in particular, from the tradition to see enemy in every political opponent. And to neutralize such an enemy it is legitimate, in their opinion, to use any means available. Law in this case serves but a cover for unlawful actions, because courts are used not as neutral arbitrators in the disputes of opposing parties, but as a mechanism of reprisals compliant with the desires of the powers that be. The cynicism and falsehood of the current situation have no parallels even in the Soviet authoritarian and totalitarian past.
Nevertheless, for an unbiased observer the political goals of this “criminal” case are clear enough:
· to secure supremacy of the new “power oligarchy” (oligarchy of the people who used to work in various security agencies), and not of the state, as it is often proclaimed;
· to impede emergence of Russia-based multinational corporations, which would impose a stricter control over bureaucracy and, in particular, curtail its arbitrary rule with regard to business, and, consequently, to the other elements of civil society, including the media and political associations;
· to free bureaucracy from whatever control on the part of society (represented by its most influential constituent, i.e. big business);
· to divert growing public distress from the errors committed by government officials and direct it against a very convenient target, namely owners of large assets (in other words, to manipulate public opinion);
· not to let public opinion make a U-turn in favor of big business and recognize it as a significant, essential, and efficient component of the country’s economic system, because such changes in the public opinion might strip bureaucracy of any opportunity to go on with racketing and robbing business and would force bureaucrats to start working to the country’s benefit;
· to bully any potential dissenters, to preserve the atmosphere of fear, which had been created in society by the moment when the “YuKOS case” began.
It must also be stressed that as a result of the modification of Russian criminal laws in accordance with the international standards those articles which made it possible to prosecute people for their convictions have been abrogated. It is one of the reasons accounting for the institution of so many criminal cases lately: their criminal character is but a cover for politically-motivated persecution. We believe that the criminal proceedings in the “YuKOS case” are of that very nature.
In our opinion, the duty of both Russian and international community is to cast full light upon the true but hidden motives of cases like this one, to assert the rights of defendants and, thus, promote bringing not only the theory of jurisprudence in Russia but also the everyday practice of the Russian judicial system in line with the rules adopted by all civilized countries. These steps would help create and implant new traditions that would be in keeping not only with the letter but also with the very spirit of law, and this, in its turn, would reduce to the minimum any possibility of trampling upon civil rights by the state machine and would make these rights really inalienable.
Recognition of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev political prisoners by Amnesty International would become an important and efficient step both contributing to the generation of sound trends in Russia’s civil society and providing immediate help and support to Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev who have become victims of a biased and unfair judicial system.
According to the definition given by Amnesty International, a political prisoner is any prisoner whose case contains a considerable political element understood in the broad sense of the word: either the motives behind the prisoner’s actions can be defined as political, or the actions themselves, or else the motives of the authorities who have put him/her into prison.
And the French office of Amnesty International has emphasized that some public figures especially need to be protected by international human rights groups, and among those public figures there are persons who
· teach citizens what rights they possess;
· support victims whose rights are violated.
In Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s case, it is absolutely clear to us that the reprisals against him can be partially connected with the activities of his Otkrytaya Rossiya [Open Russia] Foundation in the area of legal training and construction of civil society in Russia.
It must be noted that in the current political situation in Russia where the authorities are trying to exercise control over all aspects of social life the general line of the Otkrytaya Rossiya, or OR, activities, its “ideological objective” aiming to achieve more transparency of all power levels, enhance public awareness of the current social challenges, and raise independence of citizens can be qualified as opposition (and, perhaps, even provocative, according to the opinion of some officials from the presidential administration). It is quite remarkable that the very name of the foundation has an obvious similarity with that of the Open Society Foundation whose founder, Mr. George Soros, is a disciple and follower of Karl Popper, philosopher and democratic theorist.
Among the major projects implemented by OR the following ones can be singled out as an illustration:
Regional Journalism Club
The purpose of this program is to ensure multiplicity of opinions and raise professional level of journalists.
The main forms of the club’s work are seminars, informational support of journalists through the web site www.crj.ru, telephone and online conferences, off-site events. To the seminars covering social and economic topics journalists from all regions of Russia are invited (up to 60 participants every month). They are given the opportunity of communicating with the leading Russian economists, businessmen, experts and government officials.
So by means of raising the qualification of the regional journalists OR opposes the government’s attempts to establish full control over the media in Russia (cf. the reprisals against “opposition” television channels NTV and TV-6), to narrow informational space, return censorship and propaganda.
Schools of Public Politics
The concept of the project is to give the new generation of public leaders access to the knowledge, technologies and information they might need in their everyday work, to broaden their communication circle and involve as many people with leadership qualities as possible.
It is virtually common knowledge that the low level of democratic culture in Russia is producing a negative impact on the country’s political life. This is directly evidenced by President Vladimir Putin’s statement that Russian political system “does not correspond to society’s present condition and level of development.”
In the evaluation of the current situation Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Vladimir Putin have identical positions, but they radically disagree as far as conclusions and further actions are concerned. Mikhail Khodorkovsky has made his choice in favor of educating society, raising qualification and sense of duty of all those participating in political process, of the citizen and voter first of all, and, in the long run, in favor of confidence in his compatriots. This was in clear opposition to the president’s project of building a “vertical line of power,” which in fact led to curtailing civic liberties, concentration of power in the hands of the bureaucrats who are not obliged to give an account of their actions to the people, and, as a matter of fact, became a plan of debarring citizens from taking part in political process.
“Help by your Advice” Program
According to the project initiators, “Help by your advice” centers are to become at once public reception centers, control centers, and centers giving access to information resources. The centers are to be manned by volunteers of various public groups. The program aim is to make spontaneous initiatives of mutual assistance more efficient and, thus, reduce people’s dependence on bureaucrats. This task follows from Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s general views on what must be the ways of developing Russian civil society. He said that “civil society institutes must for the most part be created at the grassroots level, by people who combine their efforts in order to defend their lawful interests.”
“Liberal Heritage” Program
The purpose of this program is to resist the ever-strong tendency of public conscience in Russia to be tempted by the totalitarian model, and to do this by disseminating knowledge about the history of liberalism in Russia. Special attention is paid to the study of Russian liberal thought in particular. The aim is to refute the widespread idea of liberalism as an “imported product” not suitable for use in Russia and imposed on it by the West.
“To revive memory of Russian liberal figures of the past, to bring back to the fatherland the only political tradition that has not exhausted its potential, to overcome historical pessimism and social indifference of people” – such is the principal task of the project “Our Liberal Heritage” implemented by OR.
Youth and Educational Programs
Projects aimed at the young people are especially numerous at OR. One may say that this is the main line of the foundation’s activities. All of them are aimed at bringing up generations of well-educated, successful young people who share the values of democracy, liberty and responsibility. The project “New Civilization,” for instance, is a game model of a democratic country where children distribute between themselves the functions of various public and social institutions, e.g. those of the president, government, parliament, court, business, non-commercial associations, etc.
And the Russian Association of Navigators/Scouts founded by OR has been recognized by the World Scout Committee as Russia’s national scout organization.
Programs "Arbitrary Rule in Law" and "Public Verdict"
Judging by their essence, these programs launched by OR are advocating human rights.
The program “Arbitrary Rule in Law” is a competition of journalistic writings about violations of human and civic rights. The main purpose of the competition is to draw the public and government officials’ attention to the scope and acuteness of the problem, to the facts of the most outrageous and systematic violation of human rights, which often take place with the tacit approval, sometimes with the direct help or even at the initiative of government authorities.
The program “Public Verdict” is a large-scale program advocating human rights. It is being implemented by OR in cooperation with other human rights groups (such as Memorial and Moscow Helsinki Group). The Public Verdict Foundation provides legal and information support aimed at protection and rehabilitation of the rights violated by law-enforcement agencies. This assistance is provided by the foundation to Russian citizens, foreigners and stateless persons, non-governmental organizations, mass media and their employees, civil servants, including those working the law-enforcement agencies, and servicemen. The foundation can also render support to businesses, entrepreneurs, employees of non-commercial organizations, members of political parties.
Public Verdict Foundation
· cooperates with regional partnership organizations in the area of protection of human rights from their violation by law-enforcement agencies and other government authorities;
· provides assistance to the activities of human rights groups;
· conducts public investigations of individual cases of violation of human rights and publishes their results;
· informs the public about the situation in the area of human rights in Russia;
· studies public opinion in Russia regarding protection of human rights.
The foundation has established a 24-hour hot line providing free qualified advice to people who believe that their rights are being violated.
* * *
When Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing Brazilian journalists Nov. 22, 2004, he mentioned the Mikhail Khodorkovsky trial for the first time. He said that the Khodorkovsky case was not political, because Mikhail Khodorkovsky had never engaged in politics. “He had never been a State Duma deputy, nor was he a member of any [political] party or head of any political movement,” he said. This attempt of averting accusations of political persecution of one of his opponents looks both aggressive and helpless. It just signifies total incomprehension or deliberate misinterpretation of the true meaning of the word “politics” by the Russian authorities, and the direct sense of this word is “participation in the life of one’s polity (city, state, commonwealth).”
It is clear that Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been making a considerable contribution to the social life of his country. Through the Otkrytaya Rossiya Foundation he has started work aimed towards bringing about deep-rooted changes of Russian public conscience. All activities of OR purport to prove the futility of the myth declaring that by definition Russia cannot be a democratic and European country. And this myth is willingly used both by the reactionaries in the highest ranks of the current Russian political elite and by Russia’s bitter enemies abroad. The OR activities can be called a revolution, but this is a revolution in the minds and hearts. Not only do they not presuppose the use of any violent methods, but, moreover, they are meant to rule out the very possibility of their use.
* * *
In this connection it will be relevant to note that the very circumstances of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s arrest Oct. 25, 2003 in the Novosibirsk airport have an ominous and symbolic character in a way. The arrest took place just at the peak of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s social activity. The day before, Oct. 24, he addressed the representatives of non-governmental organizations who were taking part in the “Russian Forum 2003” organized in Nizhny Novgorod. On Oct. 25, he was to participate in a seminar of a “School of Public Politics” and make a presentation “The Significance and Role of Business in the Formation of Open Society.” The presentation never took place, as at 5 o’clock in the morning, when Mr. Khodorkovsky’s plane made a provisional stop for refueling in the Novosibirsk airport, it was surrounded by buses filled with armed policemen from a special unit. They arrested Mr. Khodorkovsky, and this arrest looked like an assault and capture of an enemy armed to the teeth.
There is one more fact confirming the suggestion that the Otkrytaya Rossiya activities play an important part in the criminal proceedings launched against Mikhail Khodorkovsky. On Jan. 14, soon after the release of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s article in which he says that the destruction of YuKOS is just an additional motive for him to devote his life henceforth to social work, the Prosecutor General’s Office added one more count to his indictment (charging him with legalizing income acquired by illegal means). This accusation can serve as a pretext and “legal ground” for closing down the Otkrytaya Rossiya Foundation.
Before specifying the violations of statutory rules, which occurred in the course of trial of the Khodorkovsky–Lebedev case, we would like to draw your attention to the fact that the principal charge put forward against the defendants, that of implementing fraudulent schemes for evading taxes, is absolutely unfounded.
During the period which is now being reviewed by the court (1999–2000), legal entities had the right of making non-monetary payments to the budget, and, in particular, of using bills for that purpose, and this was practiced by YuKOS as by many other businesses. Such payments were permitted by official letters of the Russian Tax Ministry, or MNS. The methods of monitoring the activities of legal entities, which existed at the time, were strictly defined by law, and it is inadmissible to interpret them now at one’s discretion. And it is that discretionary interpretation that we perceive in the expert statements that the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office obtained when it turned to its freelance experts.
We also believe it important to stress that, according to Art. 57 of the Russian Constitution, “the laws introducing new taxes… have no retroactive force.” And in this case we see nothing else but a review of statutory rules.
We conclude from the above that in the papers of the “YuKOS case” there are no data whatsoever confirming the criminal character of the defendants’ actions.
Moreover, the proceedings related to another criminal charge, that of alleged theft of shares of the joint-stock company Apatit, the court was to have stopped as far back as in July 2004. The 10-year limitation period for that count expired in that particular month. Meanwhile, against all laws, Moscow’s Meschansky District Court continues the examination of the Apatit case.
And now about the violations of law committed by the court within the last few months.
1) Platon Lebedev is still being incarcerated in the pretrial detention center #77/1. And this notwithstanding his precarious health, which has been matter of concern of competent medical experts in Russia and abroad, and the fact that Mr. Lebedev’s serious illness has been confirmed by them more than once. The latest statement about Mr. Lebedev’s grave condition made by a panel of medical specialists working in the pretrial detention center after their consultation is dated as far back as March 2, 2004. Almost a year has passed since that time, and all this period the defendant has not received due care, to say nothing of adequate medical treatment. As a result, the prisoner’s health couldn’t but deteriorate. There were several instances when Mr. Lebedev felt unwell in the middle of a court session, but, however, he was never taken to hospital. Mr. Lebedev’s present situation is very similar to illegal pressure exercised against the defendant, loks like his deliberate physical and moral torture.
The defense’s multiple motions to change Platon Lebedev’s preventive punishment in the form of arrest and impose any other restrictive measure not connected with incarceration at the pretrial detention center, have been invariably dismissed by the Meschansky District Court and Moscow City Court. Their decisions are motivated by the assertions that once Mr. Lebedev is set free he can allegedly put pressure on the witnesses or try to escape justice by seeking shelter abroad. The courts, however, have never given any satisfactory proofs that would have confirmed that such suspicions have any grounds, although law obliges them to do so. It is all the more strange to speak about pressure on the witnesses on Mr. Lebedev’s part, because just at present the defense witnesses are testifying in court, and the defendant is personally interested that they have an opportunity of giving their evidence to the court.
The possibility for an arrested person to undergo medical treatment at a medical facility, if his state of health requires so, is ensured by law and statutory regulations. Endangered is Platon Lebedev’s very right to life, and this right is guaranteed by Russian Constitution and protected by the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
2) Furthermore, the court refuses to change the preventive punishment for Mikhail Khodorkovsky as well. However, according to Russian law, persons indicted of economic crimes not connected with personal violence are usually not incarcerated prior to and during the trial of their cases.
3) Potential defense witnesses are under severe psychological pressure on the part of the Prosecutor General’s Office.
While the investigation into the “YuKOS case” is over (it was completed many months ago) and the case is now on trial, Russia’s Prosecutor General’s Office, against all laws, continues to interrogate potential defense witnesses, namely employees, even rank and file ones, and lawyers working for the oil company. The state prosecutor, Dmitry Shokhin, demanded that a list of defense witnesses should be produced in advance. And the chair justice, Irina Kolesnikova, granted the prosecutor’s illegal motion contrary to all laws, as she had done more than once during the trial (and still continues to do so).
Moreover, regular searches and seizure of documents take place (sometimes even at night) in the offices and living quarters of the YuKOS lawyers and employees.
For all these reasons, many defense witnesses had to leave Russia. Many were charged with most improbable and fantastic offenses, some were put under arrest and incarcerated. For instance, YuKOS Legal Department Deputy Head Svetlana Bakhmina was incarcerated Dec. 7, 2004 after a 8-hour inquiry which ended for her with a heart attack. She was indicted with being an accomplice in an economic crime allegedly committed in 1997–1998. It is quite clear that a mere suspicion that a person might have committed such a crime cannot be a sufficient ground for the extreme preventive punishment, i.e. incarceration. Not less far-fetched are the suspicions that Ms. Bakhmina is allegedly capable of threatening the witnesses or fleeing abroad. It must be added that Ms. Bakhmina is a mother of two children of three and a half and of seven years old.
We are convinced that such unlawful acts against defense witnesses and YuKOS lawyers have just one purpose in view, i.e. to put pressure on them and to make them testify against Messrs. Khodorkovsky and Lebedev.
4) In January 2005, it became known that the Prosecutor General’s Office had launched a new case against Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev. This time they are charged with money-laundering (Part 3, Art. 174.1 of Russia’s Criminal Code). Yet, prior to bringing a charge in accordance with the above-mentioned article it is necessary that the monies allegedly “laundered” by the defendants be recognized by a valid court verdict as having been criminally obtained. In addition to that, it must be noted that a new investigation against Messrs. Khodorkovsky and Lebedev was started by the Prosecutor General’s Office as far back as on Dec. 2, 2004. And according to the European Convention on Human Rights and Russian criminal procedure regulations, persons suspected of an offense must be informed of any such facts immediately, which was not done in this case.
But the court refused to take a recess in the hearing and give the defendants the opportunity to exercise their right to defense in respect of the new charge.
5) During the trial, openness has been infringed more than once. Under the pretext that the court room is too small the guards and court marshals restrict access to the hearing for the general public.
Summing up the facts stated above, we make the inevitable conclusion that the violations of statutory regulations committed in the course of the trial of the Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev case are possible only because the so-called “Basmanny justice” has been given a free rein. This term is widely used in today’s Russian political language to denote courts making arbitrary decisions in accordance with the will of the powers-that-be and disregarding law of which they are to be faithful guardians.
Most experts agree that the “YuKOS case” has been producing a disastrous effect on Russian economy, and its repercussions will be affecting economy for a long time. The main conclusions made by experts are the following:
· the image of Russia as a civilized country with an economic climate attractive for investors has been seriously undermined;
· the capital flight rate has sharply accelerated (more than fivefold): a year before the attack against YuKOS the total capital flight was U.S.$2.2 bln, and a year after the start of the “YuKOS case” it reached $11.6 bln, while the overall conditions were incomparably more favorable;
· the nature of Russian business has changed, as legal capital is being forced out by “black” or “gray” one: for the first time in 10 years (monitoring period), the flight of legal capital reached $2.5 bln in Q2 2004, which was accompanied by an inflow of repatriated “black” and “gray” capital of $1.4 bln occurring at the same time.
But we cite this data for none other purpose than to show how the destruction of YuKOS and persecution of its major shareholders and top managers will affect society in general.
The most dangerous of the “YuKOS case” likely after-effects is society’s slipping down towards growing corruption and developing “shadowy” relations between business and government authorities, emergence of some kind of “social contract” between them. The authorities are beginning to have new partners, the so-called business “fiduciaries” from among employees of government security agencies and corrupted beaurocrats, who position themselves as “loyal businessmen.” The essence of the “contract” is: “fiduciaries” provide services to the authorities, and in return the authorities do not interfere with their activities. They should not interfere even in those cases where it is evident that repressions against business affect Russian economy at macrolevel. So, pardon the overwhelming emotions, Khodorkovsky today defends not only YuKOS, he defends Russia. Should Khodorkovsky win, the authorities will have to cooperate with Russian business, and establish volens nolens a sound balance between business, state and society in general. Should the “fiduciaries” win, business as such can be considered done away with in Russia.
Division, distribution and redistribution can go on forever, while Russia’s resources are limited. Very limited is also the life of the infrastructure inherited after the disintegrated Soviet Union. So, should the “fiduciaries” win now, in 10 years Russia as a single country will no longer exist. The conflicts that might emerge in Russia in that case are likely to be such that the very concepts of democratic freedoms and human rights would lose any meaning for Russian citizens, and the practical application of these concepts would remain a chimera for many decades ahead.
Taking into account such prospects, absence of independent funding of education and obstruction of any charitable activities may seem not very large losses at first sight, though the importance of such activities for development of society and prevention of its overall crisis can hardly be overestimated.
It is common knowledge that it is high-quality and ideologically unbiassed education which makes a necessary prerequisite for forming a stratum of independently-minded people, to minimize the risk that social conscience might be manipulated. It is education that guarantees proficient specialists for all branches of economy, science and society in general. Consequently, the state of education has a direct impact on the state of society and its prospects. Cooperation between YuKOS and Russian State University for the Humanities, or RSUH, has been interrupted by force. This cooperation was to last 10 years was to turn RSUH into one of the leading higher education humanitarian institutions in the world from the point of view of the teaching level. The fact that the authorities have put a halt to this process testifies that they are unwilling to allow development of independent humanitarian knowledge, that they disregard society’s needs in that area. Reprisals against Otkrytaya Rossiya, Mr. Khodorkovsky’s charitable foundation, whose educational, instructional and charitable activities have been funded by YuKOS shareholders, also speak about the extreme unwillingness of the current Russian authorities to see any positive changes in the social climate.
Support they are providing to the semblance of justice, where the letter of law is in discord with its spirit, will strengthen mass psychology of dissimulation, add to people’s distrust towards the judicial power and state as such, which will lead to full discouragement of society and degradation of social conscience. The result of it will be unstable and spontaneous social development. In such atmosphere not only respect for basic human rights will become impossible, but the very talk about them will lose any sense.
We hope that our arguments will help Amnesty International, a highly respected and renowned body, make a decision in respect of our petition. And this will contribute to a dignified solution of the entire situation around YuKOS and its major shareholders and help Russia find a way out of the crisis to which it has arrived as a result of uncivilized methods of political strife used by the current authorities.