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Politicians, experts expect no serious consequences from Khodorkovsky release

December 23, 2013, 13:01 UTC+3
Russia’s central newspapers focus on the release of former head of the Yukos oil company Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his first statements
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 MOSCOW, December 23. /ITAR-TASS/. Russia’s central newspapers focus on the release of former head of the Yukos oil company Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his first statements.

“Khodorkovsky at liberty” will influence Russia’s internal policy no greater than “Khodorkovsky in prison,” the Kommersant daily writes. In any case, neither opposition politicians nor political analysts expect serious qualitative changes in the country’s political regime. However, nobody actually doubts that Khodorkovsky would become “a leader of the public opinion,” the newspaper stresses.

Russia’s democratic minority leaders have taken with understanding Khodorkovsky’s public refusal to engage in political activity, Kommersant writes. Although during the decade of the former oligarch’s imprisonment they called him “a political prisoner.”

Politicians do not expect any changes in the country’s internal policy. “Russia will somewhat improve its image in the eyes of the European Union,” head of the law faculty, former member of the leadership of formed party SPS (Union of Right Forces) Boris Nadezhdin told Kommersant. He did not exclude that the political situation in the country might improve if Mikhail Khodorkovsky went into politics. But the “pardoning fact” in itself “is only [RF President Vladimir] Putin’s personal decision on Khodorkovsky personally.” It’s “not a fragment of global thaw,” Nadezhdin is certain.

“Khodorkovsky has been released because he poses no political threat to the regime,” the newspaper quotes deputy head of the A Just Russia faction in the State Duma lower house of parliament Mikhail Yemelyanov.

In any case, being at liberty, Mikhail Khodorkovsky will become a “public opinion leader,” believes head of the Moscow-based think tank Centre for Political Technologies Boris Makarenko.

Even staying away from politics, “he will influence, above all, the democratic sector,” believes Director General of the International Institute of Political Expertise Yevgeny Minchenko. Public activity, from which Khodorkovsky does not refuse, may give a lot of trouble to Aleksei Navalny (opposition member, a critic of corruption and of Russian President Vladimir Putin) and Mikhail Prokhorov (a Russian billionaire, politician, former President of ONEXIM Group).

“We should certainly congratulate Khodorkovsky, as a vivid personality and a man with a certain charm, on the presidential pardon and be glad,” the Izvestia newspaper writes. “But Khodorkovsky as a figure in the public mind, as a character of a Shakespearean-scale drama, has rather lost from the early release. He has suffered for 10 years, endured it all with dignity, but now he cannot say that he has served the full prison term and has 100-percent observed the ‘Don’t Trust, Don’t Fear and Don’t Ask’ principle. As he has asked a little in the end, which has somewhat spoiled the whole story, which has lost part of its value.”

“Vladimir Putin becomes the moral winner in the long story of the disfavoured founder of Yukos,” Izvestia writes. The newspaper notes that over “the past three-four months the Kremlin has already fulfilled two of the main demands of the Bolotnaya Square protesters: 1) ensured (relatively) transparent elections, at least in Moscow; 2) started the release of those who are regarded as political prisoners.”

Now that Khodorkovsky is free, investors, economists, bankers and even officials are almost unanimous: it will practically not affect Russia’s investment attractiveness, the Vedomosti newspaper stresses.

“Never,” a federal official replied to a question whether the case of Khodorkovsky had been a reason for not investing in Russia: “I’ve never heard such a thing from investors.” Strange as it may seem, investors did not care much about the case of Khodorkovsky, says an official of the financial and economic block: “I’ve discussed this topic with them both recently, when the risk of a third case arose and right after the arrest of the businessman - they have always said that was not the main risk factor, that a prison term for tax crimes is routine practice in countries of the West, you just made it crudely.”

The Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper published an article entitled “The Kremlin is not afraid of Khodorkovsky as a politician.” The publication stresses that experts explained the Kremlin’s decision to release Khodorkovsky by the fact that he is not longer dangerous to the authorities. And even if Khodorkovsky changes his decision, this would only strengthen the positions of Vladimir Putin.

In the view of Gleb Pavlovsky, head of the Effective Policy Foundation, Khodorkosvky “has become a major, prominent figure, and there is always a shortage of prominent personalities in Russia. This circumstance, Pavlovsky says, influences the political situation in Russia, however, the degree of this influence should not be overestimated: “Even when he was in prison this changed nothing. In politics, only active figures are interesting to all.” In the view of Pavlovsky, Khodorkovsky may become a serious public leader.

Head of the Levada Centre Lev Gudkov believes that Khodorkovsky, if he remained in politics, would win at elections of any level the same number of votes as Mikhail Prokhorov: “Khodorkovsky would have the same electorate, which, however, would differ greatly in regions. And in Moscow, he would be a much more powerful figure than Prokhorov and Navalny taken together.”


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