CARDIN, WICKER RAISE RULE OF LAW CASE AHEAD OF US-RUSSIA SUMMIT
WASHINGTON-Russia should release political prisoner Mikhail Khodorkovsky and show a greater commitment to human rights and rule of law, Senators Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) and Roger Wicker (R-MS) said on the Senate floor Monday, three days before the U.S. and Russian presidents are to meet.
In a lengthy floor exchange, the senators recalled the story of Khodorkovky - now Russia's best known political prisoner. Khodorkovsky, who was recently referred to in the Moscow Times as Medvedev's Sakharov, owned Yukos oil company and had used his wealth to fund opposition political parties when in 2003 he was arrested and convicted on charges of tax evasion, the company broken up and handed over to Kremlin-controlled firms.
"It was a miscarriage of justice. It was wrong," said Senator Cardin, Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission. "Clearly what was done here was a violation of Russia's commitments under the Helsinki Final Act. It was a violation of Russia's statements about allowing democracy and democratic institutions, and it was a violation of their commitment to allow a free market to develop within their own country. The real tragedy here is that this is an ongoing matter. I hope this week's meetings can focus attention on this case and Russia can start to correct this miscarriage of justice by releasing Mr. Khodorkovsky and his codefendant from prison."
"Strengthening relations with Russia must not be at the expense of progress on other important issues," said Senator Wicker, a member of the Helsinki Commission. "The United States cannot publicly support rule of law and independent judiciary while turning a blind eye to what has happened to Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev. I urge the President and the Secretary to put this issue high on the agenda as we continue to engage with Russia and high on the agenda for President Medvedev's upcoming meeting here in Washington."