Outrage of the Day: Kremlin Again Prosecutes Possible Putin Challenger

The ghost of Stalin smiles on Russia.

From the Wall Street Journal:

“As if his first show trial wasn’t sufficiently illuminating about the rule of law in Putin-led Russia, Mikhail Khodorkovsky is back in a Moscow court this week to face fresh criminal charges.

Penned in a glass cage, Mr. Khodorkovsky can be forgiven his gaunt appearance. The former boss of Yukos, at the time Russia’s largest private oil company, spent the last four years in a Siberian jail, part of the time in solitary, serving an eight-year sentence for tax evasion. Already eligible for parole, Mr. Khodorkovsky could get an additional 22 years if found guilty. Suspected of still harboring political ambitions, and a grudge, he would then be out of the way long beyond the next presidential election due in four years.

Don’t hold your breath for the outcome. Russia’s courts take orders directly from the Kremlin, and this trial sets a new Kafkian bar. The same prosecutor who won a state award for the first Khodorkovsky conviction came up with a thousand-plus page indictment. The main charge: That Mr. Khodorkovsky and his business partner stole the entire production of Yukos and laundered the profits. The presiding judge summarily dismissed defense lawyer motions even to consult with their clients.

A Kremlin confident about its hold on power would let this man be. Vladimir Putin has already destroyed the independent-minded oligarch who dared dabble in politics, sending a message to other tycoons about toeing the regime line…

-Editorial, Wall Street Journal, “Justice in Russia: A Confident Kremlin Wouldn’t Bother With Khodorkovsky,” March 8, 2009

Kudos to the Wall Street Journal for continuing to cover this story.

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