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Khodorkovsky: Western Realpolitik Big Mistake

The Finnish-Russian Civic Forum (FINROSFORUM) promotes cooperation between the peoples of Finland and Russia by supporting civic initiatives for democracy, human rights, and free speech.




The West has paid too little attention to the human rights situation in Russia, the former head of the now defunct YUKOS oil company, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, said. Speaking in a written interview with four Western newspapers — The Wall Street Journal, Le Figaro, Il Mondo, and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, — Mr Khodorkovsky blamed the West for passivity in monitoring the respect of human rights in Russia. Such a position will cost dearly to both Russia and Europe, he warned.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin came to power with a promise to eradicate the country’s class of oligarchs. Instead Putin has spent the 11 years that he has been in power to reward business tycoons loyal to him and to punish those who have dared to challenge him. Putin’s views about the role of the judicial system were similar to those of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, Mr Khodorkovsky said. The rule of law has not improved in Russia under the presidency of Dmitry Medvedev either, he noted.

The absence of rule of law in Russia has not prevented the West from entering into ever closer ties with Moscow. Good ties with the West help Putin and his cohorts justify their actions domestically, Mr Khodorkovsky said. “The biggest mistake of some people in the West is that they think that “realpolitik” requires refusal to defend democratic values, property rights, and the rule of law. They fail to think about the possibility of serious consequences or they wish to transfer responsibility for the problems to future generations,” he stated.

Russia is facing the same problems as many Arab countries where people have risen to demand democratic reforms, Mr Khodorkovsky said. “Do the events in North Africa and the Middle East not remind you of anything? The lack of fair elections, of an independent judiciary, of free press, and of genuine fight against corruption — these are the same problems that we in Russia face,” Mr Khodorkovsky noted. Earlier, President Medvedev expressed concern that the “Arab Spring” could complicate the situation in Russia’s North Caucasus.

Mr Khodorkovsky said the main task in Russia was not to miss the historical “window of opportunity” to carry out an ordered liberalisation of the society and to guarantee political freedoms in the country. “In any case, we have little time left until the new generation will cut its teeth on the system. This is inevitable. If by that time we have failed to establish genuinely democratic mechanisms for solving the question of power, no securocracy will help keep the country under control,” Mr Khodorkovsky warned.

Mr Khodorkovsky called on the G8 countries to pay serious attention to the problems in Russia. “After they accepted Russia into their midst, the moral responsibility of the remaining seven members of the G8 group of countries is to see to it that Russia respect common values. At present, we have no free elections, no freedom of expression, no rule of law,” Mr Khodorkovsky said. “Russian leaders gained entrance to the club, but were not entrusted with any responsibilities,” he stated.




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