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Will Davos Confront Medvedev On Khodorkovsky?


A demonstrator in Moscow holds a portrait of jailed tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky on December 31.
A demonstrator in Moscow holds a portrait of jailed tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky on December 31.
Will they or won't they? That's the question behind the questions as attendees gather for the World Economic Forum's annual meeting this week in Davos, Switzerland.

In a new twist on their "Ask a Leader" format, organizers of that ruthlessly exclusive forum of the megarich and überpowerful have vowed to pose three "crowdsourced questions" to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

So will they include an uncomfortable question about Kremlin whipping boy Mikhail Khodorkovsky? After all, many people regard the former Yukos oil baron and coincidentally outspoken critic of former-president-cum-prime minister Vladimir Putin as Russia's highest-profile political prisoner.

But more importantly, the WEF's "put your questions to Medvedev" page (UPDATE: now closed) shows that many of the most popular questions so far make direct reference to Khodorkovsky, whose recent conviction would keep him in prison until 2017.

Questioners are blunt in their assessments of how the rule of law is faring in Russia:

Mr. President, recently a Moscow court handed down a verdict and sentence to Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev which appears to impossibly contradict the first case against them. Your own advisors, Arkady Dvorkovich and Igor Yurgens have both commented that the verdict damages Russia's investment environment, among many other critics. What do you intend to do to correct the situation?

Another goes:

During your current period of office you took several measures against what you once called “legal nihilism” yourself. Do you agree with my thought that the second harsh verdict imposed on Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev, which has been criticised throughout the world, is an issue which requires your presidential consideration now? Many thanks for your attention!

Some commenters hasten to Medvedev's defense here, while his own office appears to have rushed to defend the president here and here.

It's an admittedly small sample so far. But if the voting pattern continues, perhaps some of the world's most influential people might just feel compelled to ask the Russian president about the elephant in the room.

UPDATE 2: Within hours of this post, the #1 question for Medvedev (which you can still find here) was not appearing in its queue of most popular, for some reason. Voting closed early, and it was also unclear whether Medvedev would make the trip to Davos, in light of the deadly January 24 bomb attack on Moscow's Domodedovo airport.

-- Andy Heil

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