June 6, 2005
KHODORKOVSKY TRIAL: AN 'UNJUST AND ENTIRELY SOVIET' VERDICT
** Papers blame an "increasingly authoritarian" Putin for the Yukos "show trial."
** Media say charges against former Yukos chief Khodorovksy were "politically motivated."
** The "farce" shows "there is no justice" in Russian courts.
** Euro writers agree the verdict "will doubtless boost capital flight" from Russia.
A 'rollback of democracy'-- The Khodorkovsky trial led writers to argue that "Putin's primary concern is maintaining his grip on power." Russia's centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta concluded Russia is following the "traditional authoritarian model of development," while other dailies also expressed growing concern about the "acts and intentions" of an "increasingly hard and autocratic" Putin. Euro papers assailed the "tolerant attitude" adopted by Western leaders towards Russia "at the expense of democratic values." They also judged the "sham trial" a way for Putin to "grab and divvy up oil assets"; Poland's centrist Rzeczpospolita alleged Moscow's "new power elite" now control "Russia's biggest and richest oil company."
Khodorkovsky's 'political ambitions' incurred 'Putin's anger'-- In Putin's "campaign against the oligarchs," Khodorkovsky was the "perfect scapegoat" due to his attempt to gain "political influence," noted analysts. Germany's right-of-center Die Welt said Khodorkovsky paid for his effort to "establish an alternative to Putin." Russia's reformist Izvestiya agreed the case quickly "shifted from the strictly legal sphere to the political." The verdict could turn Khodorkovsky into a "dissident involved in the fight for democracy," predicted several dailies. Hungary's business-oriented Vilaggazdasag dubbed the former Yukos chief a "young and credible" leader who could "become an important Russian politician."
'Nothing to do with justice'-- Outlets termed the trial a "grim reminder of Soviet times" that "made clear that Russia's legal system has nothing to do with democratic principles." Britain's conservative Times assailed Putin's "use of the law to emasculate political opposition," while Italy's business-oriented Il Sole-24 Ore stated that the "Yukos trial...has nothing to do with the rule of law." Another paper stated that the country "needs a dictatorship of law...not the laws of a dictator." Spain's left-of-center El Pais concluded that "power continues to be more important than the law" in Russia.
'Erosion of Western investment confidence'-- Western dailies noted the verdict "harms Russia's image and deters foreign investment." It will cause a "flight of foreign capital amid fears that the business climate is becoming dangerous," predicted Canada's centrist Winnipeg Free Press. Russia's youth-oriented Moskovskiy Komsomolets warned the verdict will "scare away Western investors" the country "urgently needs." Other papers stressed the "climate of insecurity" in an "even more chaotic" economy. A German broadsheet held that "real entrepreneurship...has no chance" in today's Russia, while Israel's conservative Jerusalem Post opined that the country's markets "no longer look truly free and fair."
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, email@example.com
EDITOR: Ben Goldberg
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 31 reports from 12 countries over 1 - 6 June, 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
RUSSIA: "Ex-Yukos Chief Khodorkovskiy On The Path To Presidency?"
Yuliya Latynana stated in reformist weekly Novaya Gazeta (6/6): "One and a half years ago the arrest of Mikhail Khodorkovskiy [ex-Yukos oil company chief] marked a political revolution in the country: power in Russia passed from the voter (though conventional and deceived) into the hands of President Putin's friends. Therefore, one could not expect surprises from Khodorkovskiy's sentence. What kind of surprises [could there be], when the winners are dictating a sentence to the defeated? But there were surprises. The winners read out the sentence for 11 days, with mistakes and hesitations. This was an additional psychological torment for the defendants and a sign: repent and perhaps you'll get less. Rumours were put out from the very top: the sentence may be a soft one. It is possible to come to an agreement. It seems to me that they read the sentence for so long and played on nerves because the Kremlin understood: with this trial it had not destroyed a frightening political opponent. With this trial it had created him. And it was important to crush Khodorkovskiy morally.... With Khodorkovskiy it didn't work. The court's sentence became a moral victory for Khodorkovskiy. The destroyers of the president's enemies are becoming his main support. Up until the Yukos trial President Putin had a very wide support base: including businesses and the West. After Khodorkovskiy's arrest President Putin's main social base became his friends. In one and a half years the people in the Kremlin have undoubtedly grown up. They have already started counting not in millions, but in billions. Khodorkovskiy has also grown up. He has started counting not in billions, but in [terms of] history."
"West Won’t Quarrel With Putin Over Khodorkovsky"
Vasiliy Mikhaylovskiy asserted in neo-communist Slovo (6/3): “The West will hardly quarrel with Putin over Khodorkovsky. Moscow must have paid for the West’s loyalty in a way that we can only guess about. More importantly, the West doesn’t give a damn about democracy and morality. It established contacts with the Bolsheviks back in Lenin’s days, when the Civil War was in full swing, and closely worked with Stalin. Today, too, it cooperates with China in spite of Amnesty International reports about violations of human rights there.”
Reformist Izvestiya declared (6/2): "Those in the Presidential Administration who have announced a contest of studies to differentiate between tax evaders and ‘optimalizers’ have nothing to do with the persecution of Khodorkovsky, of course. Even so, it looks peculiar, if not schizophrenic. If the authorities can’t figure out where optimization ends and tax evasion begins, why jail the former head of one of Russia’s most transparent companies? They would have done well to agree on terminology first.... This makes the situation in the Russian economy look even more chaotic. With tax lawyers and police unable to come to terms and laws interpreted on the basis of the might-is-right principle, it is safer not to pay taxes at all, that is, not to produce added value or create new jobs. Do we need that?”
Maksim Chernigovskiy stated in business-oriented weekly Den’gi (6/2): “The Khodorskovskiy-Lebedev verdict attests to a fundamental change in the legal climate and basic rules of the game for Russian business.... According to a public opinion poll, 43% of Russians favor continued legal persecution of business leaders, and only 16% are opposed to it.”
"The Man And The Mythical Politician"
Stanislav Belkovsky noted in business-oriented Vedomosti (6/2): "After being sentenced to nine years in prison, former Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovsky has finally become an important Russian politician.... His dream came true...on Tuesday in Meshchansky District court. The former oil magnate became Russia's first big politician working outside the system.... Khodorkovsky is his own man.... He now has a chance to become the focal point for a real--meaning outside the Kremlin system--opposition in Russia.... The man who lost $7 billion while he sat in pretrial detention has shifted into the position of moral leader.... Khodorkovsky has become a tragic figure, and only tragic heroes can hope to rule Russia.... To destroy Khodorkovsky's political career, Putin did not have to imprison him. The president had all the means for doing so at his disposal, from the complete support of the pro-Putin majority to absolute power over the mass media. But there was no way to grab and divvy up oil assets without the slammer."
"Why Him Alone?"
Vadim Markushin maintained in centrist army-run Krasnaya Zvezda (6/2): “Being a multimillionaire presupposes being involved in politics. That’s obvious. The question is, why get Khodorkovsky alone? Picking him alone for public punishment makes people wonder.”
"A Bad Precedent"
Reformist Izvestiya editorialized (6/1): "The feelings caused by the Mikhail Khodorkovsky verdict vary, depending on the observers’ political leanings. But the qualification ‘political’ is of principal importance. Right from the outset, this criminal case shifted from the strictly legal sphere to the political and even potentially the electoral sphere. The severity of the sentence is the biggest shock, a grim reminder of Soviet times, with court trials involving speculators in foreign currency, black marketers, and underground private entrepreneurs. Besides, the verdict sets a very dangerous precedent.... It is also a clear signal to investors, at home and abroad. Now, speaking of Russia’s reputation, the verdict wouldn’t have mattered much, had it not been so severe. But as it now stands, references to Russia’s ‘independent’ judiciary won’t help-nobody believes in this independence.”
Irina Khakamada, the leader of the Nash Vybor (Our Choice) party, commented in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (6/1): “Reason did not prevail. This is more proof that corrupt power is forever scared. A wounded animal bites the worst because it has nothing to lose. Khodorkovsky instills fear because he has money, political views, and a concept of Russia’s political development. Sane and not radical, he is still an opponent determined to fight all the way, prison or no prison. People like him pose the greatest danger to corrupt power. The Khodorkovsky verdict is emotional and has nothing to do with justice--it is common knowledge that there is no justice in this country. It is also aggressive and vindictive. It shows conclusively where Russia is going. Ours is the traditional authoritarian model of development. In fact, it is fascism, the kind which, while differing from Nazism, is associated with a totalitarian ideology--putting the State ahead of anything else.”
Business-oriented Vedomosti declared (6/1): "An independent judiciary will always be independent. With dependent and selective justice, we can’t defend ourselves in a court of law. The powers that be use courts as an instrument. The Kremlin has not kept its promise to establish rule of law. Instead, it has learned to use it as an instrument, being more proficient in this than even businessmen, a habit that is as useful as it is unworthy.”
"Verdict To Scare Away Investors"
Youth-oriented Moskovskiy Komsomolets opined (6/1): "The verdict against Yukos’ former owners will doubtless boost capital flight, scare away Western investors, and untie the power structures’ hands. That is sure to reflect on economic growth. Even worse, Moscow has set a dangerous precedent. Using tax optimization schemes may now be qualified as ‘fraud,’ offering a good chance to do away with competition.”
BRITAIN: "Mixed Verdict"
An editorial in the left-of-center Guardian read (6/2): "European leaders will pay lip service to Mr. Khodorkovsky as a democratic icon, but will keep on buying Russian gas from Gazprom, the company that gobbled up the Yukos empire. But it remains to be seen whether Russians will buy the prisoner's rebranded image as a victim, in a land where justice is bound to the concept of equality."
"A Soviet Show Trial: The Khodorkovsky Verdict Will Set Back Reform In Russia"
An editorial in the conservative Times read (6/1): "The outcome is as disastrous for Russian reform as it is for investor confidence. Mr. Putin's insistence that business interests should not be allowed to buy political influence...is defensible, yet his use of the law to emasculate political opposition and intimidate challengers is a harking back to Soviet thinking."
"A Show Trial Reminiscent Of The Bad Old Days"
The left-of-center Independent commented (6/1): "While Mr. Khodorkovsky's next recourse is to appeal, the immediate damage is to Russia. It is not an encouraging sign that successive governments have not only failed to harness the enterprise and wealth of its Khodorkovskys for the country's benefit, but have driven so many others into exile. This harms Russia's image and deters foreign investment; it also deprives it of the home-grown wealth and talent it needs. Until the law is seen to be independent, however, and is applied fairly to all, there will be no real change for the better."
Jasper von Altenbockum commented in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (6/1): "Putin must not fear any opposition in Russia. On the contrary, many Russians appreciate the President's measures against their country's sellout and the looting by oligarchs, who also want to cooperate closer with Americans.... The head of the Kremlin mistakes the humiliating weakness, which the two representatives of Putin's oligarchic competitors showed due to the arbitrariness of the court, as his own strength. Neither does this establish confidence nor the rule of law, and it does not boost investment that Russia urgently needs to rise from the status of a developing country. Putin might have won a power struggle for his country, but he simultaneously trampled all over it."
"Property Without Rights"
Jacques Schuster observed in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (6/1): "Every day of the verdict's reading made clear that Russia's legal system has nothing to do with democratic principles. The verdict on Yukos, which belongs to the state against today, was clear before the trial started. The Khodorkovsky case shows that those who challenge the Kremlin cannot count on the rule of law and might even end up in prison.... Khodorkovsky had to pay a high price for his political ambitions to establish an alternative to Putin. That is the only reason why he goes to prison for nine years. Other oligarchs, who gained wealth in a similarly obscure way, still enjoy their freedom. Concerning their own economic interests, European governments might not bother about oligarchic wealth and Khodorkovsky's fate, but it is worrying that this 'sovereign democracy' could also trouble European companies. Woe betide anyone who must rely on the security of property rights in Russia and faces court in Moscow!"
"Justice Does Not Come Over Night"
Elke Windisch asserted in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (6/1): "In order to become a modern country Russia requires an independent judiciary, one that sets the same regulations and rights for all at all times and that delivers verdicts not according to the sinner's proximity to the Kremlin but according to the severity of the crime. The country needs a dictatorship of law, which Putin declared to be the dictum of his first tenure, and not the laws of a dictator."
Daniel Broessler noted in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (6/1): "They picked Khodorkovsky because he generously supported President Putin's liberal opponents, and because the richest Russian was a perfect scapegoat. Khodorkovsky behind bars was thought to be popular among the Russians and to frighten off oligarchs. There also was an economic rationale behind the trial, which became obvious in the amateurish split-up of the prey. Even a milder verdict would not have rescued the reputation of Russia's judiciary. It would not have changed the economic and political motivation behind the proceedings. From a legal point of view, it was an arbitrary act."
Business-oriented Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf editorialized (6/1): "The truth is that the Khodorkovsky verdict is a farce. The formerly richest Russian might have broken the law, but he was sentenced by the court on the Kremlin's instructions for crimes that were not punishable or was statute-barred.... The verdict means that the country has not really gotten an established judicial power. The Kremlin did not dare to charge Khodorkovsky because of the dubious events around the privatization of the Yukos firm or his bank's bankruptcy. If they had done that the trial would have turned into as assessment of the time of Putin's predecessor Yeltsin. In such a trial, senior government officials would have sat next to oligarchs. Putin was not brave enough to do that; he lacked the necessary political power. Russia urgently needs to come to terms with that time. Only then can it master its future."
"Russia Shot Itself In The Foot"
Nils Kreimeier wrote in business-oriented Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg (6/1): "Investors need a climate of security. Russia, which likes to pretend that it is part of the European community of rights, has created a climate of insecurity. Laws contradict each other or are incomprehensibly formulated, so they can be used at any time to damage competitors. This inadequacy hinders Russia's development more than technological shortcomings or a lack of capital. As long as the climate of mistrust prevails, Russia will remain a country for inflexible monopolies that are reluctant to make investments. Real entrepreneurship, which is the motor of any growth apart from the resources industry, has no chance under the current conditions."
ITALY: "Russia’s Selective Use Of Justice"
Piero Sinatti contended in leading business-oriented Il Sole-24 Ore (6/1): “We’re in the presence of a double standard in the Russian leadership. Or it’s just a show in which Putin has the role (only in appearance) of the ‘good cop.’ Or there’s a clash under way in his circle over the division of the remains of Yukos. However, one thing is clear: the Yukos case constitutes ‘an example’ for the oligarchs--an ‘example’ to ‘teach’ not only ‘fiscal loyalty,’ but also not to behave like Khodorkovsky dared, encroaching on the off-limits political field. He gave himself duties that lie with the government, like control of oil flows; monopoly of pipelines.... The Yukos trial is a sign of the selective use of justice. It has nothing to do with the rule of law, which doesn’t allow trials to be used as ‘examples,’ much less sentences for scapegoats.”
"Moscow, Anti-Putin Oligarch Gets 9-Year Sentence"
Giampaolo Visetti stated in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (6/1): “The brief season of the free economy ended yesterday in Russia, with a 9-year sentence for Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev.... The sentence, considered the confirmation of Putin’s political use of the justice system, will undoubtedly increase the already consistent flight of Russian capital to foreign countries and discourage large investments in Russia.... The message is unequivocal: whoever wants to do business in the former USSR must first reckon with the Kremlin’s men.... Following Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s criticism, President Bush stated his ‘concern,’ and that he will ‘closely watch the appeal.’ ‘One is innocent until proven guilty,’ he said.”
AUSTRIA: "The Oligarch In Putin's Penal Colony"
Burkhard Bischof remarked in centrist Die Presse (6/1): "Judging from the way this trial was pushed through and the numerous interventions from highest foreign officials in Moscow were largely dismissed, there is indeed suspicion that revenge played an important role in the sentencing of Mikhial Chodorkovsky. Putin's friends in the West--above all, Gerhard Schroeder and Jacques Chirac--will probably pass a lenient judgment on this latest decision of the Russian President, just as they almost completely ignored his campaign in Chechnya.... However, it is just this tolerant attitude that Western top politicians have shown towards almost all Putin's actions that has made his rule increasingly hard and autocratic ever since he assumed power five years ago. Seen from this perspective, the elimination of Mikhail Chodorovsky and his Yukos concern is only the latest chapter in an ever-thickening book that describes the successive rollback of democracy in Russia. The West should, and indeed must, do business with Putin's Russia. However, this must not happen at the expense of democratic values. Western softball politics did not produce results. It's high time to call a spade a spade."
HUNGARY: "Nine Years Of Prison For Khodorkovsky"
Agnes Gereben pointed out in business-oriented Vilaggazdasag (6/1): “The Khodorkovsky trial, that has been seriously damaging Russia’s reputation in international organizations for almost two years, is primarily not about Khodorkovsky. All we know is that what has happened so far was decided in the Kremlin.... Because the Kremlin is as terrified of the bacillus of the ‘orange revolutions’ rampant in the former Soviet member republics as the devil is of the smell of incense, they will clear all young and credible, Yuschenko- or Saakashvili-type opposition leaders out of the way before the elections in 2008. According to the constitution, President Putin cannot have a third term. Therefore, he will be running Russia as Prime Minister. For the president’s post, they will run the by-then ancient former Prime Minister and KGB head Yevgeny Primakov who can be counted on not to rock the boat. Running against him, Khodorkovsky might be a credible candidate. And, according to Russian sociologist Olga Kristanovskaya, ‘the people of the country will never vote for him because he is a Jew’. It follows from that that Khodorkovsky will be set free before 2008, to make it possible for him to run in the presidential elections. The complexity of this scenario is only surpassed by its cynicism.”
"Man Of The Day"
Peter Barabas maintained in left-of-center Nepszava (6/1): “In Russia today they don’t ask the question of whether Khodorkovsky has committed something illegal, but rather that why he, of all people, was taken to court.... Some people simply think that it was motivated by the intent to re-nationalize the flourishing Yukos oil empire; others blame Khodorkovsky’s political ambitions as having incurred Putin’s anger. But we cannot rule out the possibility either that for the Kremlin, the most fearsome option was that, through the richest Russian, Western capital might lay its hands on the Russian oil treasure. Whatever the reason is, Khodorkovsky remains in prison, and the Western democracies may rack your brains about what to do with this situation.”
POLAND: "Putin’s Russia’s Trademark"
Slawomir Popowski wrote in centrist Rzeczpospolita (6/1): “The real purpose of this sham trial was for the new power elite to take control over the deposits of Russia’s biggest and richest oil company--even at the cost of the company’s bankruptcy. The verdict on Yukos was issued by Putin, and the obedient court only carried out the Kremlin’s ‘prikaz’ [order]. Since yesterday, it is the trademark of the ‘new’--Putin’s Russia--and also a measure of how far it [Russia] is from European standards.”
"Let Us Read Soviet Court Verdicts"
Waclaw Radziwinowicz observed in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza (6/1): “The verdict on Khodorkovsky is severe, unjust and entirely Soviet.... In his [April] address, Putin promised liberalization. What for? To pull wool over the eyes of the Western visitors who came to Moscow to attend the sixtieth anniversary of victory. The visitors departed, and it is time to show the real face. If you want to know what it is like, read Soviet court verdicts.”
SPAIN: "Parody Of Justice"
Left-of-center El País declared (6/3): "The principal lesson of the 'Jodorkovski-Yukos' case...is that in Russia power continues to be more important than the law. A consequence of this is the erosion of Western investment confidence, reflected in a growing escape of capital. It is more than probable that Putin has achieved a pyrrhic victory.... However, the end of Jodorkovski's case should be considered provisional. The long processing and the sentence have served the young and ambitious Jodorkovski to redesign his image to change from an (economic) winner without scruples to a dissident involved in the fight for democracy. Unlike other important magnates, he has decided to remain in Russia to confront his torment. This decisive element makes him different and better in the eyes of those who see him as a future player."
ISRAEL: "Putin's Trials"
The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (6/2): "The conviction of Russian-Jewish businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his sentence to nine years imprisonment by a Moscow court Tuesday has rightly given the world another reason for increasing concern about the acts and intentions of President Vladimir Putin.... Make no mistake, the Khodorkovsky conviction by itself will generate its own punishment for Russia in the chill it will send through the international business community, and a likely subsequent reluctance by that community to invest in a country where the markets no longer look truly free and fair. But that is not enough. Nor is the admirable rhetoric employed by U.S. President George W. Bush last month in his visits to the Baltic States and Georgia, where he lauded and offered reassurances for their freedom and independence from Russian domination. Bush was right, though, that given the West's limited ability to effect internal reform and democratization in Russia, the best way to curtail Putin's ambitions is to do just that in its neighboring countries, bringing them into the Western sphere of influence. This will require more than words.... When the Russian people increasingly see the benefits of free societies and free markets in the surrounding states, the calls for reform and not repression from the Kremlin will grow louder. That is the best way to ensure that everyone in Russia--including Mikhail Khodorkovsky--gets the fair trial they deserve."
SAUDI ARABIA: "A Verdict Under Shadow"
The English-language expatriate-oriented Arab News asserted (6/1): "The guilty verdict and nine-year jail sentence handed to former Yukos boss Mikhail Khodorkovsky by a Russian court comes as no surprise. His was a political show trial. President Putin is making an example out of him. But it is the exact nature of the politics behind it that is the issue. If Khodorkovsky is being punished because he was involved in corruption and the trial was intended to send a warning to other Russian oligarchs, then no one can complain. On the other hand, if, as Khodorkovsky’s supporters claim, he is being punished because he decided to support opposition parties in an increasingly authoritarian Russia, and the warning intended from Putin is that Russian businessmen who play politics will suffer, then this is a very sad day for Russia. Russian democracy and Russian freedom are then seen to be the sham that its detractors claim. The Putin administration has presented itself as the hammer of the oligarchs, knowing such a policy to be hugely popular.... The trouble is that Putin’s campaign against the oligarchs is extraordinarily limited.... If oligarchs stole from the state through rigged privatizations and massive tax evasion, they ought to be charged. But so far, the list is limited to Khodorkovsky, his business partner, Platon Lebedev and Sergei Bidash, the former director of Tagmet. What about Russia’s other billionaires.... There are many others. But they are supporters of Putin.... The suspicion will not go away. That is deeply damaging to Russia and to the Russian economy. It says that the Kremlin puts power before growth and prosperity.... The subsequent way in which rules were bent to enable Yukos to be bought back under state control makes the picture even worse. It is no wonder that international businesses are now wary of investing in Russia."
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
INDONESIA: "Why Is The Trial Of Russian Oil Businessman Sensational"
Independent leading Kompas editorialized (6/2): "The sensation of the trial process and verdict on the famous Russian oil tycoon, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, has been tremendous. On the surface, the case of Khodorkovsky and Yukos seems to be linked with taxes and fraud. But, in the final analysis, it is obvious that the case was a political manoeuvre. Indeed, Khodorkovsky continues to overshadow Putin's popularity.... With abundant money, Khodorkovsky can make political manoeuvres freely."
CANADA: "Putin's Prisoner"
The centrist Winnipeg Free Press commented (6/2): "Mikhail Khodorkovsky makes for an odd martyr even by Russian standards. One of the so-called oligarchs who spun chaos into cash after the collapse of the Soviet Union, he was sentenced Tuesday to nine years in prison after a controversial trial. Yet a martyr is what he may become as Russian public opinion begins to shift in favour of a man once dismissed as a greedy opportunist but now increasingly regarded as a victim of Russian President Vladimir Putin's own greed for power. It is widely believed that charges against Mr. Khodorkovsky were politically motivated.... The trial may prove more about Mr. Putin that it has about Mr. Khodorkovsky. It has been variously denounced in the West as a kangaroo court, a return to Communist-style justice, an expression of contempt for democratic values--and these are the sentiments of Russia's friends in the West, the U.S. and the EU.... The fallout from the trial cannot now be avoided. It is already damaging Russia. There has been a flight of foreign capital amid fears that the business climate is becoming dangerous. Mr. Putin's apparent contempt for the advice of his friends in Europe and North America concentrates concerns already existing about his democratic bona fides. The greatest damage, however, is the evidence this affair offers that, despite his democratic protestations, Mr. Putin's primary concern is maintaining his grip on power at any cost. After her son was sentenced, Mr. Khodorkovsky's mother said, Russians know 'what happens when KGB people take power.' That is the bad name Mr. Putin is earning and it may deservedly continue to dog him."
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