What a guy! He let Mikhail Khordokovsky (MBK) out of jail yesterday, purportedly (I won’t believe it until we see a free MBK). MBK was/is Putin’s primary political opponent. For whatever sins/crimes MBK may have committed back in the Wild West of Russia in the 90s, he was transforming at the time of his arrest into a legitimate political opponent of Putin’s and a more “Western” type of businessman. (Full disclosure: the agency I worked for represented MBK for many years and worked full-time at getting him out of prison; I worked on the account.)
MBK was arrested, at gunpoint and accused, the first time, of embezzling funds from his Yukos oil. He was, of course, found guilty after a Russian show trial. As he neared the end of his term in Siberia, more charges were filed. This time he was accused, get this, of stealing all the oil from Yukos!!! Must have hid it in his back pocket. Guilty, again, his stay in Siberia extended. There were rumors of yet another set of charges being brought against him as his sentence was to expire next year.
Then, out of the blue (or red, since it’s Russia), Putin, after a four-hour press conference when a mention of freeing MBK would have been The News, announced MBK was being freed as well as other prisoners. Oh, did I mention the Winter Olympics open in Russia in seven weeks? The world’s media will be there and, of course, a lot of attention would be paid to Putin’s style of “leadership” (which, basically, is to throw anyone who opposes him in jail and take away “freedoms” from his people. Whatta guy!!!).
Of course the Putin Regime version is that MBK asked for a pardon which was granted. MBK’s laywer says he knew nothing of such a request. This is the same MBK who could have fled Russia before his arrest, but chose not to – knowing he would be arrested, found guilty, and incarcerated. This is the same MBK that, from his jail cell, wrote articles criticizing Putin. This is the same MBK who, despite what crimes he may or may not have committed long ago (none for which he’s ever been charged) chose to be separated from his family, chose to remain in his Russia and refused to give up his homeland, in the face of giving up his personal freedom. Did he ask for a pardon? I can’t imagine he did.
This is all another Putin fantasy created to further the image Putin wants for himself, in spite of what reality may be.
If it results in MBK’s freedom, I’m all for it. And if it truly is “freedom” MBK walks into, I look forward to his next steps politically. More important, I look forward to him seeing his family and meeting, for the first time, his American-born grandchild.
Thank you, Mr. Putin, there is a Santa Claus. Or something.