November 01, 2005

The Ultimate Choice

There has been an amazing duel going on for the last several months. The opponents exchange fierce blows and no one surrenders. Meanwhile, the public is watching and cheering. Yet the dueling code is not being followed properly: one duelist is sitting in Kremlin; the other is in prison. But both believe things may change.

The nine-year prison sentence handed down this summer to Mikhail Khodorkovsky, ex-head of YUKOS, was by no means the end of the matter. On Monday, August 1, the newspaper Vedomosti published a letter from “Detention Facility No. 99/1,” in which Khodorkovsky criticized Putin and predicted an inevitable “left turn” (that was the title of the article). The prisoner, among other things, called on Putin to step down at the end of his term in 2008. Yet the letter was clearly not addressed to the president, but to the electorate. And the Kremlin got the message loud and clear.

The answer came promptly: Khodorkovsky was transferred to a crowded cell (inhabited by 11 men) and denied access to news (television and newspapers), and to a refrigerator. Federal Prison Service Chief Yury Kalinin explained that Khodorkovsky was moved because of renovations at the facility.

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