On 30th of December 2010, when the miracles before the New Year should happen, one of the most influential Russian oligarchs and owner of the oil giant “YUKOS”, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was sentenced for the maximal charge of 14 years in a penal colony.

In Mr Khodorkovsky’s last words before the verdict was given, he said he hoped that “the court will have enough courage” to make a decision of not guilty.

The court case was being translated live on the Russian website ‘Radio Svoboda’ (Radio Freedom); Mr Khodorkovsky said: “I have to admit that for me, as for any other person, it is hard to live in prison and I don’t want to die here. But if I need to…my beliefs are worth giving my life for”.

On 30th December, Khomovniki’s district court judge, Vladimir Danilkin, announced the verdict for Khodorkovsky and his former business partner Platon Lebedev. They were found guilty of money laundering: stealing 218 million tonnes of oil, and, therefore taking possession of 487 million roubles, and 7.5 million dollars. They were both sentenced to prison, and could not be released until 2017.

Khodorkovsky and Lebedev have been in prison since 2005, and their first criminal case was raised in 2003. They were originally sentenced for tax evasion and fraud; their second and more recent cases were made public almost simultaneously. They are accused of plundering oil and receiving money from its sale.

During Khodorkovsky’s imprisonment he enacted four hunger strikes. The first was declared in August 2005 to show solidarity with Lebedev being contained in a ‘punishment cell’, and the second was May 2006, protesting against its premise in a single chamber.

At the end of January 2008 Khodorkovsky went on hunger strike again in a pre-trial detention centre in Chita, demanding a release from custody of seriously ill Vasily Aleksanjan (Vice Minister of “YUKOS”). The strike lasted for two weeks, and ended with the transfer of V. Aleksanjan to a civil clinic.

In May 2010 Khodorkovsky went on hunger strike again, because the court considering the second case prolonged the term of his holding in custody. Mr. Khodorkovsky saw this action as contradicting the new law forbidding taking those accused of economic crimes into custody without sufficient evidence.

To get any kind of justice, Khodorkovsky decided he needed to get the attention of the media. He knew that the ruling political powers in Russia were not interested in his release so that he could make further plans and changes. According to RiaNovosti, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said of Khodorkovsky’s imprisonment that “[that] thief should be in jail”.

However, there seems to be parallels with the times of Stalin’s dictatorship, when getting rid of the potential rivals by any means necessary was the norm. The imprisoned oligarch was one of the rivals; a man not afraid of standing up for himself and against the dominating power, rather than fleeing the country. Khodorkovsky is not only rich and intelligent, but he had an enormous influence that may have challenged the current political system in Russia.

His punishment to imprisonment until 2017 is still causing some controversial debate. Did his sentence have a political motivation, with a threat to the so called ‘democracy’, or did the judge send to prison an enemy of the nation and a man stealing money from the government?

H His laHHis lawyers claim the sentence to be political, while Mr. Khodorkovsky remains silent, possibly understanding that what he says will not make a difference. Some people see him as a modern ‘Robin Hood’ figure, stealing money from the rich (however, in this case the rich haven’t lost that much). Others argue that he is just one of the many oligarchs who are stealing money from the government and poor people. Fourteen years of imprisonment may not be enough for us to fully understand the true cause.

If the main argument laid against him is ‘not paying taxes’, we all know that there are plenty of people and companies who do the same (Vodafone, anyone?), but not every guilty party is sent to prison. And Russia is by no means an exceptional country.

It was also argued that by Khodorkovsky’s orders many people were murdered in the early 90s. But here there is controversy again: most of people know the history of 1990s, a time when there was political chaos and it was impossible to control any of Russian mafias. It was rough, sanguinary times and all the ‘bad boys’ (now more glamorously titled ‘businessmen’) tried to expand their small businesses, get rid of their rivals and become a dominating authority within their specific region. The same things appear to be happening now, but it is not as widely known, and mafias have been transformed into the new forms of authorities.

Talking about Mr. Khodorkovsky’s past, no one mentions his recent political ambitions. Before being arrested for the last time, he was planning to get into Russia’s political life and make some radical changes in the political system. As well, Khodorkovsky was always supporting opposition to Putin’s parties. He strongly believed that without competition Russia could not be called a democratic state. His main aim was to transform Presidential power into a Parliamentarian political system, as many still see Russian Federation as a dictatorship rather than a democratic state. The Presidential chair is seem to be hereditary rather than won by battling political parties.

Boris Yeltsin became the first President of Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He was the one who appointed Vladimir Putin to be elected as the next President after him. In 1999 the Russian people fell in love with his authority and strong will, which led to him being re-elected in 2004. It was a time of some prosperity for Russia, as relationship with other states started to get better and Russia is no longer played the last role in the world of international politics.

However, we should not forget that it was also the time of war (Afghanistan in 2001) and the disappearance of the best journalists working against his power (Anna Politkovskaya was supposedly murdered in 2006 because of her strong political objectives). Before his ruling ended, Dmitry Medvedev became Putin’s ‘right hand’ and it became blatantly obvious to everyone who would become the President in 2008.

It is no surprise then, having such power, great authority and influence on people, everything went to Putin’s plan; Medvedev became the President, not forgetting who he had to thank for the role – his good friend Putin, who was subsequently appointed to be the Prime Minister not long after the Presidential elections. Having such a democratic system, I wonder if these people, who feel comfortable with their positions, have any need or want for someone who wants to change it all.

Having ex-KGB, and now Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, the ex-chairman of board of directors of the Gazprom company and now the President of the Russian Federation, as the main authorities who seemingly set their own rules, regulations and preferences, it was no surprise really that a witty businessman such as Mr Khodorkovsky, with his ambitions, had no chance of standing against their power.

We can only guess what will happen in the future. Will Khodorkovsky be stay in prison imprisoned as long as Vladimir Putin is in power?

In Mr Khodorkovsky’s last words before the verdict was given, he said he hoped that “the court will have enough courage” to make a decision of not guilty. The court case was being translated live on the Russian website ‘Radio Svoboda’ (Radio Freedom); Mr Khodorkovsky said: “I have to admit that for me, as for any other person, it is hard to live in prison and I don’t want to die here. But if I need to…my beliefs are worth giving my life for”.

On 30th December, Khomovniki’s district court judge, Vladimir Danilkin, announced the verdict for Khodorkovsky and his former business partner Platon Lebedev. They were found guilty of money laundering: stealing 218 million tonnes of oil, and, therefore taking possession of 487 million roubles, and 7.5 million dollars. They were both sentenced to prison, and could not be released until 2017.

Khodorkovsky and Lebedev have been in prison since 2005, and their first criminal case was raised in 2003. They were originally sentenced for tax evasion and fraud; their second and more recent cases were made public almost simultaneously. They are accused of plundering oil and receiving money from its sale.

During Khodorkovsky’s imprisonment he enacted four hunger strikes. The first was declared in August 2005 to show solidarity with Lebedev being contained in a ‘punishment cell’, and the second was May 2006, protesting against its premise in a single chamber.

At the end of January 2008 Khodorkovsky went on hunger strike again in a pre-trial detention centre in Chita, demanding a release from custody of seriously ill Vasily Aleksanjan (Vice Minister of “YUKOS”). The strike lasted for two weeks, and ended with the transfer of V. Aleksanjan to a civil clinic.

In May 2010 Khodorkovsky went on hunger strike again, because the court considering the second case prolonged the term of his holding in custody. Mr. Khodorkovsky saw this action as contradicting the new law forbidding taking those accused of economic crimes into custody without sufficient evidence.

To get any kind of justice, Khodorkovsky decided he needed to get the attention of the media. He knew that the ruling political powers in Russia were not interested in his release so that he could make further plans and changes. According to RiaNovosti, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said of Khodorkovsky’s imprisonment that “[that] thief should be in jail”.

However, there seems to be parallels with the times of Stalin’s dictatorship, when getting rid of the potential rivals by any means necessary was the norm. The imprisoned oligarch was one of the rivals; a man not afraid of standing up for himself and against the dominating power, rather than fleeing the country. Khodorkovsky is not only rich and intelligent, but he had an enormous influence that may have challenged the current political system in Russia.

His punishment to imprisonment until 2017 is still causing some controversial debate. Did his sentence have a political motivation, with a threat to the so called ‘democracy’, or did the judge send to prison an enemy of the nation and a man stealing money from the government?

HHis laHHis lawyers claim the sentence to be political, while Mr. Khodorkovsky remains silent, possibly understanding that what he says will not make a difference. Some people see him as a modern ‘Robin Hood’ figure, stealing money from the rich (however, in this case the rich haven’t lost that much). Others argue that he is just one of the many oligarchs who are stealing money from the government and poor people. Fourteen years of imprisonment may not be enough for us to fully understand the true cause.

If the main argument laid against him is ‘not paying taxes’, we all know that there are plenty of people and companies who do the same (Vodafone, anyone?), but not every guilty party is sent to prison. And Russia is by no means an exceptional country.

It was also argued that by Khodorkovsky’s orders many people were murdered in the early 90s. But here there is controversy again: most of people know the history of 1990s, a time when there was political chaos and it was impossible to control any of Russian mafias. It was rough, sanguinary times and all the ‘bad boys’ (now more glamorously titled ‘businessmen’) tried to expand their small businesses, get rid of their rivals and become a dominating authority within their specific region. The same things appear to be happening now, but it is not as widely known, and mafias have been transformed into the new forms of authorities.

Talking about Mr. Khodorkovsky’s past, no one mentions his recent political ambitions. Before being arrested for the last time, he was planning to get into Russia’s political life and make some radical changes in the political system. As well, Khodorkovsky was always supporting opposition to Putin’s parties. He strongly believed that without competition Russia could not be called a democratic state. His main aim was to transform Presidential power into a Parliamentarian political system, as many still see Russian Federation as a dictatorship rather than a democratic state. The Presidential chair is seem to be hereditary rather than won by battling political parties.

Boris Yeltsin became the first President of Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He was the one who appointed Vladimir Putin to be elected as the next President after him. In 1999 the Russian people fell in love with his authority and strong will, which led to him being re-elected in 2004. It was a time of some prosperity for Russia, as relationship with other states started to get better and Russia is no longer played the last role in the world of international politics.

However, we should not forget that it was also the time of war (Afghanistan in 2001) and the disappearance of the best journalists working against his power (Anna Politkovskaya was supposedly murdered in 2006 because of her strong political objectives). Before his ruling ended, Dmitry Medvedev became Putin’s ‘right hand’ and it became blatantly obvious to everyone who would become the President in 2008.

It is no surprise then, having such power, great authority and influence on people, everything went to Putin’s plan; Medvedev became the President, not forgetting who he had to thank for the role – his good friend Putin, who was subsequently appointed to be the Prime Minister not long after the Presidential elections. Having such a democratic system, I wonder if these people, who feel comfortable with their positions, have any need or want for someone who wants to change it all.

Having ex-KGB, and now Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, the ex-chairman of board of directors of the Gazprom company and now the President of the Russian Federation, as the main authorities who seemingly set their own rules, regulations and preferences, it was no surprise really that a witty businessman such as Mr Khodorkovsky, with his ambitions, had no chance of standing against their power.

We can only guess what will happen in the future. Will Khodorkovsky be stay in prison imprisoned as long as Vladimir Putin is in power?

Yuliya Yegorova