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An increasing number of Russians support Khodorkovsky's early release from prison

June 26, 2013, 12:03 UTC+3

Just 2 percent of respondents believe that Khodorkovsky would remain in prison because he violates regulations

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A poll conducted just ahead of former YUKOS CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky's 50th birthdate, showed that an increasing number of Russian citizens support his early release from prison.

The share of those who personally approve parole for ex YUKOS CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky has increased from 19 percent to 33 percent in the past six years, while the number of those opposed has plunged from 44 to 16 percent, according to the opinion poll conducted by Levada Center on the eve of the 50th birthdate of the convicted businessman (the poll involved 1,600 respondents from 45 regions, with margin for error at 3.4 percent). The poll results, cited by the Vedomosti, indicate that half of those polled do not have views of their own on this issue. In general, it would be better for Russia if Khodorkovsky returned to business or politics, according to 44 percent of the respondents. In January 2009, 33 percent held such views.

Khodorkovsky was arrested in the autumn of 2003; his jail terms expires in October 2014, the Vedomosti reminds. Khodorkovsky's lawyers petitioned for parole in 2008, but the court refused to release him citing violations of prison regulations.

Just 2 percent of Levada respondents believe that Khodorkovsky would remain in prison because he violates regulations, and another 3 percent think that the reason behind his staying in prison is that he remains socially dangerous. Seven percent believe he would remain behind the bars because not all his crimes have been exposed.

The largest share of respondents - 28 percent - believe that Khodorkovsky will be kept in prison because his release "might create problems for those who misappropriated YUKOS (three years ago, 16 percent of respondents voiced this idea). The second most popular version is that he would remain in prison because "he criticizes the authorities" /19 percent versus 11 percent in 2011/, while another 13 percent are convicted that personal hate by high-placed officials is the major obstacle to Khodorkovsky's release from jail.

After a decade in prison, a portion of the electorate still regards Khodorkovsky as a potential candidate for the post of president. The percentage of those ready to vote for him remains stable, and has reached a maximum of 11 percent since 2005. One-third of respondents keep track of his life, whereas 18 percent said they had not heard about him.

It is not that citizens have changed their attitude to Khodorkovsky, rather, they believe that after serving ten years, he has been punished enough, said Levada Center deputy director Alexei Grazhdankin, cited by the newspaper.

Khodorkovsky is a symbol in the first place, political scientist Mikhail Vinogradov said: for his supporters, he is a symbol of moral stamina, for loyalists - of the turbulent 1990s, and for the conservators - of the opportunity to revise the issue of power. In theory, he might count on support in election if the scenario emphasizing moral qualities could unfold, where the symbolic aspect has greater significance than political one, otherwise even the Opposition groups have other, more promising candidates, the political scientist believes.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky stated that he would have committed suicide if he had known what he had to expect after his arrest in Novosibirsk a decade ago, the RBK Daily writes citing his interview to The New Times. He noted that he was still proud of his family and his experience in running a large company.

"I'm afraid, I'd have shot myself. My current experience would have been a shock to me back then," he said.

He intends to mark his jubilee with his fellow inmates. He said they would drink tea with sweets and that on June 27 he would have a meeting with his wife and children. "We last saw each other in March," Khodorkovsky said.

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