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Tuesday, August 02, 2005


Khodorkovsky: Leftists to prevail in Russia

From The Moscow Times:

Jailed oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky warned in his first missive since he received a nine-year prison sentence that unless the current authoritarian regime made way for a leftist, social-democratic alternative, huge upheaval was inevitable.

In a letter published in Monday's Vedomosti from "Detention Facility No. 99/1," Khodorkovsky, who was convicted in May of large-scale fraud and tax evasion, upped the political rhetoric against President Vladimir Putin's government. He warned that a continuing and growing sense of social injustice over post-Soviet reforms that enriched a few and plunged the majority of Russians into poverty was making regime change unavoidable, and called on Putin to step down democratically at the end of his term in 2008 as the only way to ensure the country's stable development without risking collapse.

Khodorkovsky called for "a broad social-democratic coalition" consisting of liberal politicians, Communists and Rodina to join forces to prevent the creation of a new extreme authoritarian regime from the left.

Despite all the "maneuvering" by the Kremlin to push out opposition, "the leftists will win anyway," he said. "They'll win democratically in full accordance with the free will of the majority of the electorate ... with or without elections. The turn to the left will take place," he said. "The post-Soviet authoritarian project in Russia has exhausted its resources."

Liberal leader Irina Khakamada said that it was unlikely the oligarch could win the support of the population anytime soon and lead a left-wing coalition, but said it was possible he could become "a spiritual leader for the opposition."

"He has set himself the aim of becoming an active participant in the political process," she said by telephone. "He has the right to do this because he is an intellectual in prison, and sometimes you can see more from there than you can if you are taking part directly in these processes."

Other business leaders, such as Alfa Bank president Pyotr Aven, have also warned that the Kremlin could face a social backlash because of the growing gap between rich and poor.

Once Russia's richest man until a vicious battle for power with the Kremlin led to his arrest in October 2003, Khodorkovsky would make for an unlikely rallying figure for socialist forces in the eyes of most of the population. But ever since his arrest, Khodorkovsky has been attempting to carve out a political role for himself as a opposition figure and a victim of the Kremlin's drive to eliminate all opposition.

Even though he is widely reviled as an oligarch who ruthlessly climbed to power under President Boris Yeltsin, winning Yukos, one of the nation's biggest oil companies, for a fraction of its worth in a rigged auction, his refusal to stand down in his fight with the Kremlin could eventually earn him political points, politicians and analysts said.

Monday's letter appeared to take the oligarch's self-styled transformation a step further to the left. But his left-wing credentials do not appear to extend to the renationalization of property gained in the controversial 1990s auctions. Instead, in the letter, he called for privatization results to be legitimized to strengthen the hold of "effective" property owners and their property rights.

Read the full text of Khodorkovsky's letter at MosNews.

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