Friday, October 25, 2013

Today Marks 10 Years, Khodorkovsky's Arrest

On October 25th ten years ago an honest man was put to prison for political reasons, although he, according to human rights councils, had not committed any crimes. This was done during Putin’s first regime, prior to Medvedev’s presidency that preceded Putin’s second presidency. Putin was in conflict with Mikhail Khodorkovsky due to Khodorkovsky’s ownership of Yukos Oil Company, which had made him very wealthy. So ten years ago, Mikhail Khodorkovsky was arrested and later convicted along with his business partner, Lebedev, on fictitious charges of fraud, even though no evidence existed to support the case. Moreover, they were convicted on more charges yet again in 2007 and sentenced to fourteen years to run parallel to their 2005 sentence.

One of the most enraging outcomes of Khodorkovsky’s imprisonment was the transfer of the Yukos Oil Company’s assets after his 2003 arrest. The company, producing twenty percent of Russian oil, had been very successful from 2000 to 2003. In 2003, the Russian government, after freezing Yukos’s assets (in order to prevent shareholders under Khodorkovsky from selling much of their company’s resources to Exxon), demanded that Yukos pay 27 billion dollars in taxes. As a result, the company was not able to pay this striking sum of money, and a Russian government declared Yukos bankrupt. Many oil companies, including Yukos’s competitors, then bought segments of the company, after which they sold them to the Russian government. Currently, the Russian government has control over the assets that Yukos had amounted over its successful reign as a business from 1993 to 2003, which was when Khodorkovsky’s arrest prompted the company’s fast decline. 

This is a prominent human rights violation because according to human rights leaders in Russia, Putin’s actions were sparked by his personal motive to take control over Yukos’s assets, and Khodorkovsky simply stood in his way. Moreover, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe accused the government of charging Khodorkovsky for political reasons and for pressuring Khodorkovsky’s defense attorneys. In this way, Khodorkovsky was not able to properly defend himself and was subsequently sent to jail.

This case has been popularized to the extent that journalists say that one cannot talk about modern Russian history without mentioning Khodorkovsky’s arrest. The absurdity and political craziness of this situation has been discussed for years, especially through technological means like online blogs and magazines, and it is a prime example of the current government’s corruption. Although the regime tries to maintain a fa├žade of democracy, to this day Russia continues to engage in some human rights violations, such as putting people who speak out against the government in prison – a trend that is visible today in most totalitarian governments. As a result, this whole situation is really upsetting. In the following quote, Russian lawyer Vadim Klyuvgant summed up what can be learned from Khodorkovsky’s arrest: “It became obvious that are no rules to the game. It is truly a game without rules” (

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