‘I am ashamed for my country’

In The Oligarchs, I wrote about the Russians who got rich in the wild new capitalism after the fall of the Soviet Union. One of the most canny and quiet of this generation was Mikhail Khodorkovsky. For seven years, he’s been behind bars, accused of corruption, and today he delivered a closing statement in his ...

Dmitry Kostyukov/AFP/Getty Images
Dmitry Kostyukov/AFP/Getty Images
Dmitry Kostyukov/AFP/Getty Images

In The Oligarchs, I wrote about the Russians who got rich in the wild new capitalism after the fall of the Soviet Union. One of the most canny and quiet of this generation was Mikhail Khodorkovsky. For seven years, he's been behind bars, accused of corruption, and today he delivered a closing statement in his second trial. I have written of Khdorkovsky's many financial maneuvers, which were ruthless, and typical for the times. But the case against him seems arbitrary and capricious.

His statement to the court is infused with idealism about Russia's future, which must be hard to muster at a time like this.

Here's a bit of it:

In The Oligarchs, I wrote about the Russians who got rich in the wild new capitalism after the fall of the Soviet Union. One of the most canny and quiet of this generation was Mikhail Khodorkovsky. For seven years, he’s been behind bars, accused of corruption, and today he delivered a closing statement in his second trial. I have written of Khdorkovsky’s many financial maneuvers, which were ruthless, and typical for the times. But the case against him seems arbitrary and capricious.

His statement to the court is infused with idealism about Russia’s future, which must be hard to muster at a time like this.

Here’s a bit of it:

I will not be exaggerating if I say that millions of eyes throughout all of Russia and throughout the whole world are watching for the outcome of this trial. They are watching with the hope that Russia will after all become a country of freedom and of the law, where the law will be above the bureaucratic official. Where supporting opposition parties will cease being a cause for reprisals. Where the special services will protect the people and the law, and not the bureaucracy from the people and the law. Where human rights will no longer depend on the mood of the tsar. Good or evil. Where, on the contrary, the power will truly be dependent on the citizens, and the court — only on law and God. Call this conscience — if you prefer. I believe, this — is how it will be. I am not at all an ideal person, but I am — a person with an idea. For me, as for anybody, it is hard to live in jail, and I do not want to die there. But if I have to — I will not hesitate. The things I believe in are worth dying for. I think I have proven this.

For the full statement in English, see Julia Ioffe’s blog, The Moscow Diaries.

David E. Hoffman covered foreign affairs, national politics, economics, and served as an editor at the Washington Post for 27 years.

He was a White House correspondent during the Reagan years and the presidency of George H. W. Bush, and covered the State Department when James A. Baker III was secretary. He was bureau chief in Jerusalem at the time of the 1993 Oslo peace accords, and served six years as Moscow bureau chief, covering the tumultuous Yeltsin era. On returning to Washington in 2001, he became foreign editor and then, in 2005, assistant managing editor for foreign news. Twitter: @thedeadhandbook

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