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Da Russophile
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I have no idea what possessed Putin.

Did he think that it would spare him Western criticism in the run-up to Sochi? Of course not. Khodorkovsky was on the back-burner. LGBT rights are West’s stick du jour to beat up on Russia.

Did he think it would improve the legal and investment climate? I sure hope not, because it would mean he is an idiot who laps up the propaganda of those who loathe him.

Did he think it would reflect well on him? Journalists are rushing in to confirm that Putin’s pardon is just as arbitrary as the original indictment. (They have a point – about the former). Even pundits who once excoriated Khodorkovsky as the criminal he was, such as Mark Adomanis, now talk of the “trumped-up charges of fraud and tax-evasion” that put him in prison.

Did he think Khodorkovsky would shut up in gratitude? There was no admission of guilt involve, and the Menatep bandit has begun agitating from his 5-star Berlin hotel already.

Russia desperately needs more Westernization. In any truly civilized country, YUKOS’ campaign of tax evasion and contract killings would have ensured Khodorkovsky would have been locked up and the keys thrown away forever.

Instead, he will busy himself with plotting intrigues, as oligarchs are wont to do in banana republics. The only difference is that Russia doesn’t have bananas.

12/22/2013 EDIT: Alexander Mercouris has penned what I consider to be the defining article on this: Khodorkovsky – The End of the Affair? Go, read.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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My views on Khodorkovsky – and by extension his being found guilty of $25bn embezzlement – aren’t exactly a secret (1, 2, 3) so I’ll keep this brief.

1. As usual, the only people who care about this are Western politicians eager to score cheap shots against Russia’s “assault” on transparency and rule of law (note that the same people have no problem with repressing Wikileaks and killing Assange – everyone should be subject to equal scrutiny, but some more equally than others!); MBK’s lawyers and PR-men whose job this is; and the legions of naifs, fools and ideologues manipulated by them. BTW, my favorite photo is above, showing elderly ladies parading with that chic glossy poster of their hero, with Medvedev and Putin darkly conspiring behind his back. I’m sure they funded it all out of their pensions.

2. The standard argument of MBK’s PR-men goes something like this: how could Khodorkovsky be guilty of embezzling $25bn, from his own company? And especially considering that he’s already been found guilty of tax evasion? But that’s just begging the question; insinuations, not facts. While MBK *might* not be directly guilty of this, I’m sure the prosecutors have found some legal loophole or another sufficient to convict him. I can imagine a scenario where the proceeds from the tax evasion he was originally convicted for – if retained by MBK’s various LLC’s and holding companies, which they presumably were – could also legally constitute embezzlement.

The issue then becomes a question of whether Russia’s laws against double jeopardy apply to this case; it’s theoretically possible to both evade taxes, and consequently to deprive your shareholders of dividends, i.e. embezzlement. I don’t know the legalistic details but neither do more than 99% of the pundits; what I do want to stress is that even from the legalistic viewpoint, stressed by MBK’s defenders, things are far from a straightforward case of “Putin’s vendetta” against the “independent businessman”.

3. I’m not going to reiterate the other arguments as to why Medvedev should pardon MBK (e.g. that in itself it a subversion of the legal process; that the US imprisons people without trial at Guantanamo doesn’t give me free reign to abduct passersby into my basement Juggler-style; that he never cared about rule of law until it boomeranged back against him). The bottom line is he failed at his power grab. Too bad for him, he should have used his ill-gotten gains on buying foreign football clubs and luxury yachts with AA systems. Smallest violin in the world playing for his lost opportunities!

4. The liberal intelligentsia and libertarian oligarch-apologists love yapping on about how Khodorkovsky’s political “persecution” will lead to investors withdrawing their money from that non-BRICworthy economic hellhole, that is Russia. I checked specifically for this and observed absolutely zero discernible effect on the RTS stockmarket around when MBK was found guilty on December 27th. (Of course, pardoning criminals just to appease the hurt feelings of international capital is perhaps the most reprehensible pro-MBK argument of them all).

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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Anatoly Karlin
About Anatoly Karlin

I am a blogger, thinker, and businessman in the SF Bay Area. I’m originally from Russia, spent many years in Britain, and studied at U.C. Berkeley.

One of my tenets is that ideologies tend to suck. As such, I hesitate about attaching labels to myself. That said, if it’s really necessary, I suppose “liberal-conservative neoreactionary” would be close enough.

Though I consider myself part of the Orthodox Church, my philosophy and spiritual views are more influenced by digital physics, Gnosticism, and Russian cosmism than anything specifically Judeo-Christian.