01 June 2005 |

The public calls for the West to apply pressure on Russia will obviously be counterproductive

As we go to press, Mr. Khodorkovsky has been found guilty as charged of numerous economic crimes, including fraud, tax evasion and embezzlement as relates to Yukos. We are still awaiting the verdicts as regards the fraudulent Apatit privatization. Furthermore, the Prosecutor's Office has announced that a new slew of charges will be brought - primarily involving money laundering.

Given the billions that Menatep has abroad the charges seem well-founded. What we are still awaiting is prosecution for crimes of violence. Nevzlin stands accused of murder, and if the reputation of the Menatep boys is anything to go by (the Apatit privatization alone reportedly could have filled up a small cemetery) there is more to come.

There are two great mysteries here. The first - which we have returned to repeatedly - is how anyone as intelligent as Mikhail could have done something so stupid as to engage in a fight to the death with the Putin administration (perhaps there is something about having grown up in a Soviet-era communal apartment - then finding oneself a multi-billionaire surrounded by scores of adulating flunkies - which causes a loss of the sense of perspective). But the second mystery is, if anything, even more bewildering. What on earth do they expect to gain from their scorched earth tactics against Russia?

Defense counsel Robert Amsterdam has been accusing the Russian government of theft, all matter of human rights violations, and has publicly attempted to pressure, inter alia, the German government to downgrade relations with Russia (with a straight face, in the same interview he also spoke of his "love for Russia"!) Meanwhile, Menatep has been furiously lobbying in Washington against fundamental Russian diplomatic interests, in particular WTO accession.

Of course, the notion that Germany would abandon a vital part of its diplomatic and economic strategy to support a Russian crook in trouble with his own government is laughable. When the Menatep boys requested that the British ambassador write a letter to Putin in support of Khodorkovsky (unlike the fawning response from the US ambassador) they were promptly shown the door. Now, even the Bush administration - which strongly supported Khodorkovsky in the days when it appeared that he could deliver Russia oil to the US - has belatedly realized that they have drilled a dry hole, and seems to show less enthusiasm. Certainly, much of the US Neocon faction is still generously funded by Yukos, so yes, the senators-for-sale that Khodorkovsky once owned in the Russian State Duma have now been replaced by some bought US congressmen. Alas, for the fallen oligarch, their writ extends to the Russian border, but not far beyond. Since it was apparently the promise of support from the American Neocons which led Khodorkovsky to so disastrously overplay his hand, they certainly owe him one!

No, the simple fact is that Amsterdam and his mates have no doubt with the active complicity of the accused, simply succeeded in gaining the worst possible outcome for their client. Their public calls for the West to apply pressure to Russia will obviously be counterproductive: Mr. Putin does not intend to kowtow to the West in the manner of his predecessors. Amsterdam is correct in his assessment that the Russian government has suffered much PR damage from this affaire - certainly, the Menatep PR machine is nothing if not professional. He should bear in mind that the Nazis' siege of Leningrad did infinitely more damage - but Russia never capitulated!

-- Pravda