It is a pleasure to welcome everyone to this briefing today on the YUKOS case and its impact on business and politics in Russia today.
With Russia taking the chairmanship of the G-8 at the end of this year, the subject of law in Russia and its relationship to business and politics becomes especially important. The YUKOS case seems to have been characterized by selective prosecution and blatant legal arbitrariness. For instance, I was surprised to hear that much of the ‘verdict” in the Khodorkovsky trial was merely the judge’s restatement of the indictment filed by the prosecution. This is reminiscent of the dissident trials of the Soviet era.
I think The New York Times said correctly when it wrote, “We criticize this trial not necessarily because we believe Mr. Khodorkovsky is innocent or that oligarchs should be immune from the law, but because it was not a fair trial, and a fair trial would have been so valuable to the development of Russia…”
Indifference, or hostility, to the rule of law will ultimately wreak havoc on a nation’s democratic development and its economic future, and I say this as someone who does not intend to be needlessly critical of Russia. I want to see the Russian Federation as a prosperous and stable member of the international community and partner in the war against international terror.
For Russia to transform in this way there must be certain reliable legal standards that are respected and enforced.
I note that former Prime Minister of Russia, Mikhail Kasyanov, recently announced that he was considering running for President in 2008. He is now being investigated for corruption. Just a coincidence, perhaps?
With this in mind, we look forward to hearing from our guest today from Russia – via Israel – who has extensive knowledge of the Yukos case and the Russian Government’s pursuit of Mr. Khodorkovsky.