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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

YUKOS Oil jailing may create political martyr


The jailing of Mikhail Khodorkovsky may have made the Russian oil tycoon an icon for President Vladimir Putin's liberal foes rather than rid the Kremlin of a potential rival, experts said. The 41-year-old founder of YUKOS oil major, Khodorkovsky was sentenced on Tuesday to nine years for fraud and tax evasion in a trial, seen in Russia and abroad as a punishment for his funding of opposition parties and his political ambitions. 'The sentence shows that the authorities are seriously afraid of Khodorkovsky as a politician,' said the leader of the liberal SPS party, Nikita Bekykh. 'His prison term makes him a symbol of the opposition whether he wants this or not.' Even if his term is cut, the billionaire has no chance of leaving prison until after the 2008 presidential polls in which Putin, who cannot run for a third term under present rules, will have to ensure a smooth transition of power. Immediately after being sentenced on Tuesday, Khodorkovsky sought to assume the mantle of a wronged moral leader whose fate reflected a deep malaise at the heart of Putin's Russia. 'I will fight for my freedom ... and that of Russia,' he said in a statement issued by his lawyers. 'I am now with my people. We will suffer and win together.'
While I have been generally aware of this story, I haven't been following it closely. Putin's activities here seem to be very dangerous, and the steps he has taken toward totalitarian rule are very troubling. On the other hand, It is tough to feel too sorry for any Billionaire. Hopefully, if Khodorkovsky is able to turn his jail sentence into political power in the future, he will use that power wisely and put Russia back on the path toward democracy.


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