Leading article: A verdict that may reflect badly on Russia

Share
Related Topics

The second trial of the fallen Russian oil magnate, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, expected to conclude today, is an important day for Russian justice; a test of President Medvedev's stated resolve to reform Russia's judiciary and confront its notorious political partiality.

The verdict on Khodorkovsky, who has served seven years of an eight-year sentence for tax evasion and now faces up to 14 more years on embezzlement charges, will signify whether Russia's courts are able to operate beyond the shadow of the Kremlin.

A hero to some and a villain to others, in reality the ex-oligarch is a mixture of both – a modern-day Icarus who flew too close to the sun, the sun in this case being Vladimir Putin, who has never forgiven the oligarch for his decision to place his fortune at the service of a variety of parties opposed to Mr Putin's rule.

Outside Russia, few dispute that this was a factor behind Khodorkovsky's fall and the harsh sentence that he received in 2003. The enmity between the two men endures. From his cell, Khodorkovsy recently described Russia's Prime Minister as a pitiable figure who feels affection only for his beloved dogs.

Pre-empting the court's decision, a significant gesture in itself, Mr Putin described Khodorkovsky as a thief, adding that thieves belonged in jail. The slanging match, so reminiscent of the personal arguments that tsars had with their imprisoned critics, suggests that both men regard this week's court verdict as a formality.

Outside Russia, many will shrug. The initial predictions, made after Khodorkovsky was first jailed, that foreign investors would shun Russia, seeing the Putin regime as anti-business, have not been borne out. Russia's principal business partners in the West, Germany above all, appear understanding of Russia's so-called "managed" democracy, seeing it as one of the least worst options. If nothing else, they argue, it has given Russia stability.

Britain has less to lose economically from speaking out. We do not have to buy into the myth of Khodorkovsky as a martyr to insist that Russia abide by the standards it has set for itself. If this looks like another verdict written by the Kremlin, we should say so.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Bathroom Showroom Manager / Bathroom Sales Designer

£22 - £25k basic + Commission=OTE £35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Bathroom Sh...

Guru Careers: Marketing Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Marketing / Digital Marketing Executive (CRM, Eve...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Foreign Exchange Dealer - OTE £40,000+

£16000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Foreign Exchange Dealer is re...

Recruitment Genius: IT Engineer

£19000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity now exists for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
People struggle to board a train at the railway station in Budapest  

Even when refugees do make it to British soil, they are treated appallingly

Maya Goodfellow
 

Daily catch-up: immigration past and present, in Europe and in America

John Rentoul
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones