Putin is pardoning Mikahil Khodorkovsky.
“In regard to Khodorkovsky, I’ve already said that Mikhail Borisovich must submit the corresponding papers [for a pardon] in accordance with the law. He didn’t do this, but just recently, he wrote such a document to me with a request for a pardon. He’s been in prison for ten years and that is a serious term. He referenced humanitarian grounds. His mother is sick. And I think that a decision can be made and the decree on the pardon will be signed in the nearest time.”
The comments were made off stage just after Putin’s marathon presser. But he did hint at something in his comments on the unlikelihood of a third Yukos case during the conference. “As to ‘the third case,’ I do not want to go into details but honestly speaking I, as a person watching this from the outside, I do not see considerable prospects in this regard.”
Still, Joshua Yaffa tweeted it best:
This is how the Putin cult works: joke and banter for hours, then break hugest news of all in faux offhand way and make everyone scramble.
— Joshua Yaffa (@yaffaesque) December 19, 2013
Khodorkovsky’s people, however, say their client wrote no such pardon document to Putin.
“He never filed [an appeal for pardon], and we haven’t had any recent information about anyone appealing on his behalf. We don’t have this information, although we’ve received a number of pardon appeals on his behalf of other people over the years,” said Vadim Klyuvgant, a lawyer for Khodorkovsky to RIA Novosti.
Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press secretary, reiterated that Khodorkovsky wrote his boss. “Putin recently received a letter written by Khodorkovsky not long ago.”
This is big news regardless the source of Putin’s decision.
And coming on the heels of the amnesty for some of the Bolotnaya participants, the Greenpeace activists, and Pussy Riot, it points to 2014 beginning with a political thaw.
Just in time for Sochi.
More will certainly be revealed in the coming hours and days.
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By Sean — 9 years ago
It looks like Nashi might have crossed a line in their campaign against Alexander Podrabinek. According to Vremya, the Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights Council under the President of the Russian Federation made an official appeal calling for an investigation of Nashi’s “illegal and amoral” campaign to hunt down the journalist. The appeal reads:
The campaign to hunt the [Podrabinek] clearly violates existing legislation and demonstrates obvious signs of extremism: fomentation of discord and the violation of a citizen’s human rights and freedoms. There presently are signs of the violation of articles 23 and 25 of the Russian Constitution (the inviolability of private life and residence.) The violation of article 24 which prohibits the use and distribution of information about the private life of an individual without his sanction: it is unlikely that A. Podrabinek gave his address to anyone for the organization to picket his home. Finally, and this is the most important, is article 29 which guarantees everyone the freedom of thought and speech and prohibits the use of force against the expression of those thoughts, opinions, or in their rejection.
Ouch! The Council wasn’t the first to note Nashi’s violation of the law. On 2 October, Vedomosti denounced Nashi’s campaign, noting that lawyers agreed that the organization violated the law. But the business daily merely cited that their protests outside Podrabinek’s apartment violated the civil code because Nashi didn’t get permission from the city to hold daily pickets. I wonder if after hearing these charges Nashi will add the Council and Vedomosti to its lawsuit against Ekho Moskvy. The youth organization is demanding 500,000 rubles in damages from the radio station for its accusations that Nashi is hunting Podrabinek. But they are. Aren’t they? How else to you interpret Nikita Borovikov threat that if Prodrabinek doesn’t apologize then Nashi will “force” him to leave the country?
And all of this after Nashi received adulation from its godfather in the Kremlin, Vladislav Surkov! Didn’t the Council not get the memo? Nashi is responsible for the political freedoms that every Russian now enjoys. Surkov told a group of Nashists in late September, “I am free and therefore I am for Putin and Medvedev. I am free and therefore I am “Ours” (Nash) and not an alien (chuzhoi)–this is my choice.” He then continued: “You are the leading fighting brigade of our political system. I as before believe that your prevalence on the street is also our essential advantage. We have it thanks you and all those who brilliantly know how to conduct mass rallies.”
With an endorsement like that, I’m sure the Council’s appeal will fall on deaf ears. Investigate Nashi. Yeah right.
Just when I thought things couldn’t get any sillier.
By Sean — 11 years ago
There is so much to say about Anders Aslund’s “Purge or Coup?” commentary in the Moscow Times. The big question on his mind is why Putin isn’t going to retire as promised. Aslund’s reasons are twofold: 1) There have been “serious accusations of corruption and grand larceny” raised against Putin requiring him to secure immunity via the office of the Prime Minister. 2) Putin is, in good old dialectical fashion, the identical subject-object of the system he’s created. If he leaves, Aslund asserts, “his system is prone to collapse.” Now, I completely dismiss the first and agree somewhat with the second. But my agreement with Aslund is for different reasons than he provides.
Putin doesn’t need immunity because there haven’t been any serious allegations of grand larceny. At least not enough for anyone in Russia to take seriously. Allegations of Putin’s wealth have come from abroad, mainly from an interview Stanislav Belkovsky gave in the German daily Die Welt. Belkovsky has no documents linking Putin to his supposed $40 billion. He only provides estimates of the wealth of shares Putin allegedly holds in Surgutneftegaz, Gazprom, and Gunvor. Now I have no doubt that Putin has stashed away a little sumptin’ sumptin’ on the side for retirement. I mean, if he can’t who the hell can!? The real question is what does the revelation of Putin’s alleged wealth mean and for who?
Aslund is convinced that Putin’s wealth was leaked by Sechin as the trump card in his clan war against Viktor Cherkesov. This was suggested by Luke Harding in the Guardian two weeks ago. But there has been little evidence linking the “leak” to Sechin. This hasn’t stopped the speculation, though. The main theory is that Sechin’s people leaked information about Putin’s wealth as retaliation for the hits they’ve taken over the last two months in what is now being called the “Siloviki War.” The logic goes that Putin’s picking Medvedev is a death blow to Sechin (who was apparently the main backer of the “third term party” who desired Putin’s return. If true, then wouldn’t Sechin be happy that Putin is sticking around?) But what does Sechin have to gain politically from outing Putin stash?
I would say very little. If Sechin is threatening Putin, then he’s only threatening himself. Any investigation into how Putin amassed his wealth would inevitably put the focus on how Sechin and his people got theirs. This seems to already be happening. Belkovsky’s assertions are beginning to engender other claims of massive Kremlin elite graft. In an interview with conservative Daily Telegraph, former Kremlin insider-turned-enemy Andrei Illarionov alleged that the Kremlin elites have all but drained Russia’s Stabilization Fund. This is a claim, forum.msk reminds us, that Russian economist Mikhail Delyagin made two months ago. “One gets the impression that someone in the leadership regards the Stabilization Fund as his personal wallet,” Delyagin said at the time.
If Sechin’s group did indeed leak information about Putin’s money, it was more to remind him that there are no Kremlin princes among thieves. No one is against or in “revolt” of Putin as Aslund claims. The back and forth between Cherkasov and Sechin is merely two clans jostling for position over their future. Putin has attempted to “contain” the “Siloviki War” with two counter moves. First, he anointed his own protege Dimitry Medvedev as the next Don. Medvedev’s loyalty is to Putin alone and therefore makes him a suitable future manager of the clans in. One should emphasize “future” because as things stand now, Medvedev is hardly strong enough to keep a balance between the clans. This points to the second move Putin has made. By accepting a position of Prime Minister, he lets everyone know that he’s going to stick around and make sure things don’t go to shit. The Medvedev-Putin “dream team” will manage the clans until Medvedev can do it on his own. Welcome to peaceful presidential succession, Russian style.
If you buy my take, then Aslund’s assertions that Putin has “carried out a coup against his KGB friends,” that the Chekists “undoubtedly loathe Medvedev, who has outwitted them,” and that they “hate their former friend Vladimir Vladimirovich” is absolute poppycock. None of the siloviki will be “discarded into the dustbin of history.” To cry that civil war is on the horizon is premature, if not down right silly. If the 1990s were as traumatic to the Putinistas as some claim, then they know well that they will gain nothing by a replay of the 1997 “Banker’s War” or, god forbid, another coup a la 1991. The days where “purge and a coup are obvious actions for a conspiratorial brain trained in the Kremlin” are gone. In its place we are seeing the post-Soviet Russian elite becoming what Marx called a class in itself and for itself. Clans will bicker. They will jostle for position. Sometimes daddy will side with one over the other. But to break the class deal will mean disaster for them all. In fact, the only thing that would spark said disaster is if Putin took Aslund’s advice to “fire all these Chekists before the planned coronation in May.” That, my friends, would initiate a bloodbath for sure.
Medvedev’s anointment is in the best interests of all of the clans, even if they might not fully realize it. To chose one of Cherkasov’s or Sechin’s clients would be like giving a kid the keys to a candy store. So no, this is hardly a “prelude to the fall of the KGB kleptocrats.” It’s about continuing their bountiful existence.
By Sean — 11 years ago
At some point, I don’t know when, Martin Luther proclaimed, “Who has the youth, has the future.” If this is true, then Putin has assured that his “plan” will continue well after Russia’s youth grow up and take the reigns of power. But Putin’s success in capturing the youth isn’t because of Nashi. It is more a product of the first generation’s formative years coinciding with Russia’s economic boom. The result is a generation, which many now call Putin’s Generation, that places wealth, careerism, and political conservativism as hallmarks of their identity. That is at least what VTsIOM’s Dmitry Polikanov says in his article “The New Russians.”
Here is a run down of Polikanov’s findings from surveying 18-24 year olds:
- Acquiring wealth (62%) trumps family (58%), children (45%), career (37%) and a good education (21%) as key goals. It’s quite interesting that a good education is at the opposite end of wealth, since one would expect the former providing a greater opportunity for get the latter. What it tells me is that for Russian youths, wealth is viewed as something obtainable without or in spite of education.
- Russian youth are more politically apathetic than the general population. Only 55% of youth said they didn’t engaged in a political action in the last two years compared to 47% of the population. The most common political act is voting. In fact, Polikanov finds that youth vote 5-10% less than the general population. Only 37% say they discuss politics. Youth’s political attitudes, when they have them, are “liberal Right,” and only 25% favor “the free market and political democracy.” On the whole most prefer non-political forms of organization and expression such as literary or cultural societies.
- Russian youth support the authorities. ” Putin’s youth aren’t looking for a democratic “revolution”, and don’t place much stake in the concept of a Western democratic model,” says Polikanov. About half (40-45%) support United Russia and other pro-government parties. They are completely turned off to both the extreme left and right. About 52-55% identify with the nation as “a concept capable of uniting the entire nation,” but only 9% agree with “Russia for the Russians.” “Unlike many liberals’ expectations in the 1990s,” Polikanov writes, “the new generation is mostly loyal to the authorities and reluctant to support the opposition in any form.”
- Their views of religion are increasingly more Protestant than Orthodox. About a quarter of religious youth emphasize personal salvation and morality rather than observing Orthodox customs and ritual.
Taken as a whole, Polikanov says that his findings show that “Putin’s youngsters are more individualistic, less romantic, more pragmatic and more focused on achieving personal success.”
Excerpts from interviews with young people paint a more nuanced picture. Here are a few quotes.
Alexander, 23, actor:
“A young actor can earn a decent enough wage, and this is improving with every year. Someone starting out, for example, will get $150-$200 for a day of filming. You start negotiating as you get more experience. Though you’ve got to hurry to get in ahead of someone else. You see, everything in Russia depends on the individual, on how much he actually wants things himself.”
Masha, 24, PhD student:
“Overall, though I don’t agree with much of what the current regime stands for, they have to be praised for getting us out of the chaos of the 1990s. Of course, you can criticize Putin for tightening the screws. But then again bringing order always requires some screws to be tightened.”
Denis , 26, student and small-scale entrepreneur:
“I’m interested in buying a car – not politics. . . As far as I’m concerned, success in life is about being one’s own boss. It’s about stability. Confidence. Family. And… well… I’d say its easier these days to have all four. Definitely compared to the 1990s. You can buy anything you need now. Apart from a flat – you can work day in, day out, and you still won’t have enough. I’ve heard the government are offering grants, but I’m not really at that stage yet. I’ve only just got together with a girl, you see. I’m hoping something serious will come of it.
Are our politicians changing things for the better? I can’t really answer that. There is progress on some fronts. Life is changing. But politics don’t interest me. I’m more occupied with other things, like buying a car. I’ll definitely do it this year, though I haven’t decided which one yet.”
Stepan, 25, father of two children:
“With kids, your problems will increase. But I’m optimistic.
How are things with money? Not easy. I’m always looking for the next ruble. But I don’t complain – if I need something, I’ll always find a way of getting it. It’s something I’ve learned in life – if you give yourself a goal and a deadline, you’ll do things. Of course, you’ll sometimes hit a brick wall, like Russian bureaucracy, but even this is getting easier. Not so long ago we even came across a helpful government official. . .
We’ve got relatives and friends who have moved abroad, but we want to stay and work in Russia. I know when my children start to grow up, my problems will increase. I know I can’t be entirely confident about the next 10 years. But I’m optimistic when I look to the future.”
Nikita , 24, classical musician:
“Politics are important to me. My sympathies lie on the side of liberal democracy, but the problem is that this have never had any sensible proponents in Russia. I didn’t vote out of principle, but the way things stand, I think I would probably have voted for Medvedev. He seemed to me the lesser evil.”
Angela, 20, student:
“My identity is in being Russian and Orthodox. . .
Am I interested in politics? Not really. I don’t watch news on the TV. I try not to watch TV at all. But I voted in the elections. For Medvedev. Why? I like Putin’s politics, and I think Medvedev will continue in the same way. It is thanks to Putin that Russia is on the up.
I think Russia is right to take a hard line abroad. You have to remember Russia takes up one sixth of the entire globe! The most important thing is that we avoid a war. I believe all people are brothers. Do I think a war is possible? Maybe. I think the US present a real danger with their politics.”
Alexander, 26, political activist and party worker:
“Being involved in public politics is like a drug.
How did it start? I’ve been actively involved in politics since my second year at university, but it was only in late 2004 when things really got interesting. This was when I founded a site – skazhi.net.
My idea was a response to an unpopular government decision to replace social benefits-in-kind with direct payments. We saw that people were upset, wanted to protest, but didn’t know where or how. So we decided to create a dynamic online map of Russia, with updates of all the protests going on around Russia. We ended up getting loads of coverage in the foreign media, including CNN.
As for me, I had great fun growing my beard and wearing a cap I wanted to play on the image of Che Guevara. I think that people quite liked it.
When the wave subsided, I left the public arena to work for a political party.
To be honest, I miss it loads. The exposure gave me a high… it was like a drug.”
Anna, 17, student:
“I don’t believe we are on a collision course with the West . .
Would I have taken part in the elections had I been 18? I think it would have probably been worth it. To be honest, I don’t feel any particular need or desire to vote.
Do I consider myself European? That’s a difficult one. I suppose I consider myself Russian first and foremost. Probably, yes, we are closer to Europe. Moscow at least. It is a completely different world in the eastern regions.
Today, everyone is talking about a clash of the West with Russia. I’m not sure about this. I’ve traveled a lot and I think that people generally respond to Russians well. The only exception to this is the Czechs, who for historical reasons really don’t like us.”