Friday, April 18, 2014

The Power Vertical

Podcast: The Pardon Heard Around The World

Former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
It caused Russian markets to rally. It has been called "a landmark event" and a development of "colossal significance."

And it happened so fast, I had to entirely change my plans for this week's podcast.

It, of course, is the sudden release of jailed former oil executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky after more than a decade as Russia's most famous political prisoner.

On the latest Power Vertical Podcast, I discussed Khodorkovsky's release and what it might portend with Kirill Kobrin, editor of the Moscow-based history and sociology magazine "Neprikosnovenny zapas" and NYU Professor Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russia's security services and author of the blog "In Moscow's Shadows."

The discussion went on in real time, as Khodorkovsky's release was unfolding -- so please bear with us. 

Also on the podcast, Kirill, Mark, and I took a look at Vladimir Putin's quixotic bid to claim the mantle of the "world conservativism's new leader."

Power Vertical Podcast -- December 20, 2013
Power Vertical Podcast -- December 20, 2013i
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Listen to or download the podcast above or subscribe to "The Power Vertical Podcast" on iTunes.
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Comment Sorting
by: Eugenio from: Vienna
December 20, 2013 20:13
Watch your wallets, guys - the thief is on loose!
In Response

by: Marina from: Croatia
December 21, 2013 16:34
He was the only businessman in Russia, who had talent, character and integrity, and and that exactly was the reason for his incarceration by those who lacked these qualities so you nobody eugenio should not judge him
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
December 22, 2013 18:28
Oh, yes, Marina from Croatia - everyone can and should judge the thief who has stolen billions of rubbles from the population of the country that has spent more than 70 years creating all this wealth.
And it is no surprise that this thief decided to go and live in the country that is currently busy looting many European nations, such as Greece, Portugal or Cyprus - the Germans will for sure need the expertise of this guy.
In Response

by: rick
December 23, 2013 02:40
those who knew him during those years

knows very well

that Khodorkovsky was the most dangerous, ruthless and arrogant bandit .

And , anyway ,

and in any case
must stop calling him "political prisoner"

even the European Court

everitime ready to whip russia

did not recognize him as such "political prisoner."
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
December 27, 2013 23:35
There is part of truth in your, as usual, nerve gas from Russia.
Wealth of USSR nations was stolen by the pseudo-capitalists.
Khodorkovsky was one of them, at beginning of the "lazha",
Later the Evil Imperial resurrect and old "Bolshi Guards"
Started selection of non-Russian's part of the wealth.

Continuing torture, plagiarize and extort as the mob,
Even on me in USA, squeeze Jews like Berezovsky,
They also squeezed all non-Varaga-Prussak names,
Leaving around only Putin-Muller, gang of Frizovsky.
Is he a Poll, or did he spend much wealth on Vodka?

Was the USA move-star, half-Russian - half-Chinese,
Found hanged in Asia, with tighten rope in privet part,
Spending on Vodka and Girls, but earning less in art,
Paid less to Russia, while eating bread with cheese?

Well, Khodorkovsky accepted the ordeal, be robbed,
Help Nazi Russia make Olympics in annexed Sochi,
From Georgia, by Lenin's genocide. World is duped.
Next to Sochi Georgian Abkhazia annexed to bunch
Land to land, as Hitler did to Checks, before Munich.

Hitler less arrogant than Russia, Munich not Prague.
They let out Khodorkovsky for more than one reason.
Like Munhauzen, kill 7 with 1 shot, but yet too vague.
Beside Nazi Olympics, to steal - typical Ivan treason,
Must be one of the 7 arrogant tricks - steal and mock.

by: alleydedour from: Beijing
December 20, 2013 20:49
It is in Beijing......I am too excited to sleep:(
Given that Khodorkovsky has arrived in Germany, the plan of dividing oppositions, if it exists actually, will be broken by his leaving? I felt most of analysts didn't expect his leaving before the report was revealed, but it seems that he could avoid many conflicts if he goes abroad, such as the lawsuit against Sechin or Abramovich, and the competition with Navalny, so, is it a good choice to him?
In fact I hardly believe that the petition was submitted by himself, for his families and attorneys both have no information. His words in his telephone interview with the New TImes seems to be very excited, too excited to control his words(he repeated "freedom" for three times), if he had know the event before almost one month, perhaps he would not be so agitated.

by: La Russophobe from: USA
December 21, 2013 13:21
Did the market rally? When is a rally not a rally?

"Russia Stocks Decline as Khodorkovsky Leaves Prison, Crude Falls"

by: PermReader
December 21, 2013 15:13
Khodorkovsky`s jail and his liberation can be understood not in the terms of the fight for power but in the context of "Russia`s heroic overcoming of the difficulties it creates by itself.

by: PermReader
December 21, 2013 15:45
The politics of the substitution: the EU habitualy grumling at the US political governance does not notice the pogrom created by Barack Obama in the ME and Muslim World and his fight against the conservative values.Instead the US and UE liberals organise the crusade against the outlying "conservative" Putin,who understands well the offensive Obama`s leftism and is happy in the role of the "conservative values"` defendand.The idiocy of his opponents help Putin to play his role!

by: Marko from: USA
December 21, 2013 17:43
In a couple of weeks, this will be an afterthought. Khodorkovsky was always just a crook with a ego the size of a galaxy -- though he and his oligarchic ilk-- Berezovsky, Gusinsky, etc. brought massive misery to ordinary Russians in the 1990s.. Calling him a political rival to Putin was and is silly, because Khodorkovsky was always quite unpopular in Russia-- so much so that nothing (not his own billions or US billions) could have fixed that. He was also widely reviled for years in the West (sources such as the New York Times and Washington Post [amongst others]) covered him as a corrupt manipulative oligarch and a tax cheat. That all changed when he put American oil execs many of the them actually former Enron employees) on the Board of Yukos and began to set up deals to hand over controlling stakes in pipelines, fields, etc to US energy transnationals. He had gone from Khodorkovsky 100% Western transnationals 0% and Russian people 0% to Khodorkovsky 50% Western transnationals 50% and Russian people 0% under pressure from a resurgent Russian state under Vladimir Putin. Of course that latter number never ever changed until after Yukos was broken up... then Khodorkovsky was hailed in the West as a great entrepreneur, reformer, campaigner for social justice (hilarious!)etc (and when his high-risk dealings landed him in the clink) a "prisoner of conscience"-- a truly grotesque phrase in this instance. You can now add émigré and has been to that list. Whatever political or economic benefit Putin is expecting out of this won't be realized either though...
In Response

by: Marina from: Croatia
December 22, 2013 13:59
Marko from USA, misery to ordinary Russians in 1990 s was brought not by Khodorkovskiy, but by inept president Eltsin and his political underlings, such as Gaidar, Chubais and others, some of which are now working under Putin. Khodorkovskiy had nothing to do with their political and economic decisions.
Khodorkovskiy is quite popular among the most educated Russians- exactly the part of society, where Putin is unpopular (even though Putin is better president, because you need iron fist rather than a lot of brains to rule Russia). Tax cheat? May be. At a time, when Eltsin's government was stealing people's savings from state owned banks and didn't pay salaries for months to workers, giving anything to such crooked government was considered stupid, so everyone tried to hold on their money, not only Khodorkovskiy. At that time Khodorkovskiy emerged as a young talented entrepreneur, able to organise and make things work in a chaotic country, unlike other oligarchs, who got rich on "privatizing "government property they managed, Ponzi schemes, or forced takeovers of successful businesses (the latter thing is what Putin's KGB/FSB likes to do). Social justice? Among other things, Khodorkovskiy founded the private tuition free school for underprivileged children with special talents, and it was not hilarious when their parents were harassed by Putin's tax agency. The agency demanded these poor families to pay huge taxes on the money spent by Khodorkovskiy for educating their children, and then some).
So are you uninformed or envious to a talented man?
In Response

by: Anonymous
December 23, 2013 15:03
MArina says
""". Khodorkovskiy had nothing to do with their political and economic decisions"""
this is just .... inaccurate .....
Khodorkovskiy 100% was involved in political decisions
and was able to get everything that he had stolen
thanks to his political contacts
and not for his skill or genius.

Khodorkovskiy was a Komsomol activist and therefore well established in the Soviet apparatus
Was the financial advisor of Yeltsin government in the early 90s
Due to familiarity with Golubovich has had the opportunity to create a co-operative bank already in 1989 , "Menatep", one of the first commercial banks in URSS

Khodorkovsky and Nevzlin became advisers of the Prime Minister of Russia Ivan Silaeva,
as well as established relationships with Fuel and Energy Minister Vladimir Lopukhin
Thanks to this "Menatep" received permission to serve: the Ministry of Finance, State Tax Service, and later the state company "Rosvooruzhenie" involved in the export of weapons.
Thanks to Lopuchin efforts in March 1992, Khodorkovsky was named president of the Investment Promotion in the fuel and energy complex of Human Rights
Deputy Minister of Fuel and Energy
So ....his life was certainly linked to the political world .
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
December 23, 2013 20:50
Marina, are you getting paid by this thief in order to defend him on internet fora?
In Response

by: Asehpe from: The Netherlands
December 26, 2013 21:25
Yes, Marina is paid by Khodorkovsky, who knows how important it is to be defended against Eugenio and similar powerful men in the hierarchy of Russian government...

The funny thing is that you compare him to Al Capone. Think about Lenin: he also committed a crime, namely revolt against the country's lawful government. And he committed quite a few more after that. Yet the Soviet Union enshrined him, and his mummy is still revered by many.

What Khodorkovsky will do now that he is free will determine how the world will see them. Just as Stalin is no longer remembered as a seminarist and future priest, Khodorkovsky may not be remembered as the Yukos guy... History is not as simple as you make it sound, Eugie.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
December 22, 2013 18:31
A very good point, Marko: "Khodorkovsky was always just a crook". And his ego does not interest anyone any longer.
Hey you, Marina from Croatia, have a look at the comment of Marko and try to reflect on the info he provides.
In Response

by: Marina from: Croatia
December 25, 2013 11:02
Of course, Khodorkovskiy shared with me his prison "balanda". And those who fill the internet with hatred for this talented and courageous man, are either envious losers; or participate in KGB smear campaign, being on their payroll. Remember the story that famous Russian ballerina told, how she (along with dozens other russian celebrities) was ordered by putin underlings to sign the letter that repeated basicly the lies that are told about Khodorkovskiy by some others on this forum. Being a smart woman, she really resented it, but signed - to save her carrier.
There are many lies told about Khodorkovskiy. I saw with my , and later decided to tell the truth. I have seen with my own eyes on TV how Putin told, at some activist meeting, that Khodorkovskiy killed one "babushka" in Moscow in order to live in her apartment. It was so ridiculous, that he never repeated it again. So stop your envious (paid?) trolling, I am too busy to answer you
In Response

by: Anonymous
December 25, 2013 18:18
for judge work of mr. K
do not need to go looking for little things
There is a boulder big as a moon that makes clear its activities robbery ,

his two bankruptcies were not caused by putin
but by genius of mr. K
financial genius or evil genius?

I am also sure that Mr. K is an intelligent man
but you know ....
how Pope said
""who more know , more sin""
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
December 25, 2013 19:48
Marina, Al Capone or Don Corleone were also "talented and courageous". And yet, they were theives and mobsters - the same way as Khodorkovsky. The fact of being "talented and courageous" does not authorize anyone to commit crimes.
A thief is a thief, and his place is in a camp.
In Response

by: rick
December 23, 2013 02:55
and we must remember that Khodorkovsky

bought 40% of Yukos

(incidentally he paied only in part)

just only $ 160 million! ! !

A giant worth billions and billions and billions of dollars
with 160 million !

In any case
Russian people had every right
to take back what was stolen him

And we must remember also bankrupt of Khodorkovsky's bank Menatep
In Response

by: vas from: NY
December 24, 2013 00:28
i feel like Russia should return the gold and other treasures that belongs to Romania.
In Response

by: Anonymous
December 25, 2013 18:02
romania lose WWII , you forgot ?

by: Boris the Bear from: Deep in the Forest
December 23, 2013 18:54
Are we seeing the first signs of iron man Vlad with an eye on his legacy? His political career could so easily spiral into disaster and since he has ridden more than his fair share of questionable good luck, is he actually feeling insecure enough to think about his place in history? Ha Ha the tough man going soft in his old age and doesn't he just love political commentators coming up with ready made excuses for his weakening heart to milk......
In Response

by: Anonymous
December 25, 2013 18:24
you're crazy to have putin asUSA president
In Response

by: Johnny B Good from: Rock'n'Rollin
December 26, 2013 15:21
Hey "Anonymous" get off the sauce you're slurring your words

by: Vakhtand from: Moscow
December 26, 2013 09:53
Khodorkovsky said that Putin was right when he recognized аbkhaz bandits.
I remind you that the аbkhaz bandits killed thousands of women, children and elderly
This support of bandits demonstrates the nature of Khodorkovsky- he is a cunning, treacherous and wicked man.
His former security chief Pichugin, serving a life sentence for killing people who were opponents of Khodorkovsky
Pichugin was a former cop and a gangster, but without the order he could not kill these people.
Therefore seems that Khodorkovsky like to talk about аbkhaz bandits, because he has the same bandits friends....
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
December 26, 2013 18:56
Good point, Vakhtang: Khodorkovsky is a thief and a mobster. It is really ridiculous to read those comments of Marina trying to pretend that ANYONE who made a fortune in Russia during the 1990s was not a thief! Thanks God, she appears to be the only one here thinking that he was anything else then a gangster.
In Response

by: Vakhtang from: Moscow
December 28, 2013 00:12
Marina is a type that can offer to forgive these pranks, because there was a time when all killed each other, she's just silly on the side of Hodor, because she does not like Putin and not considered the facts
Putin also did everything wrong.
From the very beginning it was necessary to hang on Hodor all those killings that were committed on his orders and now were less noise from all this defenders like Marina
Of course, if Khodorkovsky will start to open your mouth, against him will start to speak witnesses of these murders.
Hodorkovky is not a sheep but a wolf in sheep's clothing...

In Response

by: Marina from: Croatia
December 28, 2013 02:03
Khodorkovskiy became a symbol of resistance and dignity to people. A lot of people held their breath following his story. Many years from now (when Putin becomes senile and will be carried out of presidential palace), there will be a movie and books written about Khodorkovskiy's life. For 10 years he remained free and strong where other prisoners were quickly broken.
You, Eugeniy, would turn into a puddle after one week in KGB prison (though I suspect, you actually are their "plant", part of their smear campaign). He held on for10 years
And because Khodorkovskiy became a symbol, it became irrelevant if he had some sins. EVERYONE who became rich in the 90-s did so by grabbing government property. or Ponzi scheme. Eltsin/ Gaidar grabbed the largest pieces.(oil,gas, finances).They needed someone able to manage it for them. So eltsin chose the one who was the most able in his opinion, the same way as he (and Berezovskiy) chose Putin in 2000 and presented him with the whole country (Putin's hidden money are now modestly assessed at 60 billion, so get envious of him). Putin picked Sechin to manage what is left of Yukos for him (get envious). So Khodorkovskiy didn't "steel" anything, he got a present, and managed the company very well.
By the way, the money (bank savings) that Eltsin stole from people were not returned by Putin (I heard he offered miserable compensation as PR move).
And since you need to have the last word, I allow you, troll again

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
December 28, 2013 17:46
To ASEHPE: You are comparing Khodorkovsky to Lenin and Stalin :-)). See, Asehpe, there is one thing that makes people like Lenin and Stalin different from such thieves as Khodorkovsky: they (Lenin and Stalin) had an IDEA in their heads. One may like it or dislike this idea, but those were people devoted to their IDEAS and whatever they did (such as organizing bank robberies - a speciality of Stalin some 110 years ago), they did it in order to advance this IDEA.
Khodorkovsky is one of those "talented people" produced by free-market capitalism: the only thing they are able to be passionate about is MONEY and nothing else. Boring and primitive free-market roaches. So, NO, Asehpe, the world history will not be different because one more greedy and mediocre roach left prison. He will end end up the same way as his colleague Berezovsky ended a few months ago: old, useless, fogotten by everybody...
In Response

by: Alex from: Baltimore, USA
December 31, 2013 15:58
Eugenio, you are either a troll paid by the Russians to attack RFE/RL and defend the Kremlin or you are a self-hating extreme leftist hyporcrite, who lives in the free West while singing Putin's praises and tearing down his own civilization. Either go live in Russia (where you'll soon beg to return, but let's hope Austria won't take you back), or shut your mouth. Your ideology is dead and buried and nasty little leftists like you are just embarrassing in this day and age. To quote what was said earlier about another left-wing fool, Lillian Helman, "every word you say is a lie, including "the" and "and". I hope to never see or hear from you in the New Year on this website. I wish you the worst possible New Year and a 2014 full of disappointments in your heroes Putin, Assad, and Kim Jung Un. You are an evil and vile human being.
In Response

by: Marina from: Croatia
December 31, 2013 21:36
Dear Eugenio
I wish you a happy New Year
It is getting somewhat entertaining to read your posts
It looks like we are talking about different man.
Khodorkovskiy is NOT about money. He has a character and backbone no matter if he is wearing a business suit with a million in his pocket or a prison clothing, And he has a real powerful idea- FREEDOM.
If Lenin and Stalin, and (partially) our contemporary mini- Stalin, have any idea, it was (is) - to destroy freedom and control everything.
If Russia is better with freedom or total control, is another story. It looks like majority there prefers control, so I think, Khodorkovskiy should not waste any more of his time and talents on that country. He probably understands that and the only thing he wants to do for russia now, is to help other political prisoners.
He already helped them - just by keeping his head straight and not giving up to above pictured "mini".
Inspiration is no less important in prison than bread.
Do not compare MK to Berezovskiy, who was a powerful "grey cardinal" behind always drunk Eltsin, brought putin from obscurity, and got destroyed by his own creation.

I wish you in a New Year to get a job and achieve at least a fraction of Khodorkovskiy's success.
And to Khodorkovskiy I wish well deserved happiness in the New year.

About This Blog

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It covers emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or