Posts Tagged ‘livintenko’

May 2012

From jail cell, Mikhail Khodorkovsky urges Britain to ban senior Russian officials from Olympics

Daily Telegraph

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the jailed oil tycoon, has called on Britain to prevent Russian ofrficials suspected of human rights abuses or corruption from attending the Olympics.

In a letter passed to The Sunday Telegraph from his prison cell, Mr Khodorkovsky urged a ban on 308 officials including high-profile figures such as Russian deputy prime minister Vladislav Surkov, youth leader Vasily Yakemenko and controversial elections chief Vladimir Churov.

The provocative proposal comes as William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, travels to Moscow for a one day visit tomorrow.

He is expected to broach democracy issues briefly but the main focus of the trip will be multilateral cooperation over Syria and Iran.

Mr Khodorkovsky, jailed on allegedly trumped up charges of fraud in 2003, stopped short of requesting an entry ban on Vladimir Putin, but urged Prime Minister David Cameron to press the Russian president on his autocratic leadership if he travels to London for the Games.

“If he is willing, there is much that Putin can do to push Russian society down the road to democracy and reform,” said Mr Khodorkovsky, 48, who is behind bars at a penal colony in Karelia region in northwest Russia. “But surrounding himself by ‘yes men’, he will not often hear the case for change. It is the role of other world leaders to spell out the price Russia tragically pays for being semi-detached from the family of modern democratic nations.”

The tycoon said western countries had “much to gain” if they helped transform Russia from a country where “the state expropriates assets and where the rule of law has been corrupted” into a stable democracy with a diverse economy.

“I would strongly urge Mr Cameron to speak the truth to Mr Putin, that Russia cannot survive on fossil fuels alone and that the days of being able to maintain a ‘managed democracy’ are numbered,” he said.
Mr Putin was elected for a third term as president in March after a series of mass street protests against his rule, and announced a new government dominated by loyal hardliners last week.

Mr Khodorkovsky, who was once Russia’s richest man and owner of the Yukos oil giant, was prosecuted after coming in to conflict with Mr Putin in the early 2000s, when the latter was serving his first term in the Kremlin. The businessman was handed a new sentence in a second fraud trial in 2010 which will keep him in jail until 2017.

Mr Putin is widely thought to have initiated the legal charge on Mr Khodorkovsky in retaliation against him sponsoring opposition parties, while the Russian leader’s supporters say the businessman is a thief who deserved all he got.

In the letter passed to The Sunday Telegraph via his lawyers, Mr Khodorkovsky said Mr Putin needed to be taught a lesson: “I understand it would be very difficult for the British government to ban any head of state from the Olympics, especially from a member-state of the G8 and Council of Europe.

“I also, however, understand that the values of the Olympics are about respect, excellence and friendship and it would do Putin no harm to be exposed to these ideals and think of applying them at home.”

Mr Khodorkvosky said there was “something that the British government can do to raise the profile of human rights whilst playing host to the Olympic Games”. He referred to a list of Russian officials allegedly involved in human rights violations which was presented to the US Congress last year by the opposition leader and former world chess champion, Garry Kasparov.

“I would call on the UK public to look closely at Kasparov’s list when checking against the Russian delegation visiting for London 2012,” said Mr Khodorkovsky.

The suggested visa-ban list, available online, includes Mr Surkov, the former Kremlin “grey cardinal”, Mr Yakemenko, who was once head of the rampantly nationalist Nashi youth group, Mr Churov, who is detested by liberals for his alleged role in election fraud, and Yury Chaika, Russia’s tough prosecutor general.

It also features hundreds of prosecutors, policemen and state employees allegedly involved in the persecution of Yukos employees.

It is unclear how many of the people on the list intend to visit London for the Olympics. Mr Yakemenko’s federal agency on youth affairs, RosMolodezh, is subordinated to the ministry of sport and he is known to be a table tennis fan. No one was available for comment at the agency on Friday.

Moscow is already seething at US and EU proposals to introduce a “Magnitsky list”, featuring people allegedly involved in the death in custody of 37-year-old lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009.

The US is said to have quietly introduced a ban on 60 Russian officials suspected of involvement in his death in July last year, and the UK reportedly followed suit in April. US senators want more stringent measures to freeze the officials’ assets.

The UK has been trying to patch up relations with Moscow after a sharp dip following the death in London in 2006 of former KGB colonel Alexander Litvinenko. Mr Cameron met Mr Putin and then-President Dmitry Medvedev on a visit to Moscow last September and said the Litvinenko affair should not “freeze the entire relationship”.

A British government official said on Friday that Russia remained a “crucial partner” for the UK and that Mr Cameron’s visit last year had “set the tone for a relationship on a stronger footing”.
He said the principle areas of discussion during Mr Hague’s visit to Moscow tomorrow would be multilateral issues such as Iran, Syria and the Middle East peace process.

However, the Foreign Secretary is also expected to address the ongoing stalemate over Litvinenko’s alleged murder. Russia has refused to extradite the chief suspect, Andrei Lugovoi, to the UK. A lack of prosecutions in the Magnitsky case may also be raised.

Mr Khodorkovsky said in his letter that he did not expect to be released early from prison under Russia’s current leadership. He kept up his spirits by corresponding with intellectuals like popular Russian novelist and opposition figure Boris Akunin, and by anticipating time with his family when he is finally freed, he said.

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