[A-List] Russia: Putin vs. one less oligarch?
michael.keaney at mbs.fi
Tue Mar 30 04:56:47 MST 2004
Jailed tycoon attacks Russia's business elite
By Andrew Jack in Moscow
Financial Times: March 30 2004
Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Russian oil tycoon languishing in jail facing $1bn
(£551m) in fraud and tax evasion charges, on Monday turned on his former
allies among the liberal business elite and praised President Vladimir
In what appears to be an attempt to gain a more lenient approach in his
case, Mr Khodorkovsky's self-critical declaration in the daily business
newspaper Vedomosti marks a sharp change in tone from his previous defiance
over the privatisations of the 1990s.
Mr Khodorkovsky said in a 3,000-word article that the liberals had only
themselves to blame for their political defeat in parliamentary elections
last December after enriching themselves over the past decade while failing
to take into account the views of ordinary Russians.
He argued that Mr Putin deserved support as someone who while "probably
neither a liberal nor a democrat is more liberal and democratic than 70 per
cent of our population" and a guarantor of "the stability of our country"
who limited the influence of nationalist forces.
The comments distanced him from some of his own business partners, notably
Leonid Nevzlin, who fled Russia and criticised Mr Putin during an
investigation into the business affairs of Yukos, Russia's biggest oil
company, which Mr Khodorkovsky controlled before his incarceration.
Mr Khodorkovsky's views are shared by many Russian analysts and politicians,
and he has even voiced some of them in the past in private.
But such a public statement, written from the Moscow cell where has been
held in pre-trial detention since October, is a sharp shift in emphasis.
Boris Makarenko, a political analyst, said it showed "clear symptoms of an
attempt to reconcile with Putin".
While making no specific references to the criminal charges against him, Mr
Khodorkovsky was far less strident in his defence of the privatisations,
including the one by which he gained control of Yukos.
"This shows his efforts to express his own thoughts after he has been
deprived of his voice," said a former employee of Mr Khodorkovsky. "He still
has to persuade people that these are not just games. The chances he will be
released on bail are very small."
Meanwhile, lawyers acting for Mr Khodorkovsky and the Menatep group of
companies said on Monday they would appeal to Switzerland's supreme court
against last Friday's formal decision by the Swiss authorities to freeze
accounts worth billions of francs at Russia's request.
Russian prosecutors say the frozen cash amounts to SFr6.2bn (£2.6bn),
although the Swiss federal prosecutor's office said only that "several
billion Swiss francs" were involved. According to Menatep's lawyers, the
blocked funds include hundreds of millions of dollars in a Yukos pension
fund and several operational accounts for Menatep companies.
More information about the A-List