Monday, January 24, 2011

Window on Eurasia: Russia a Land of Many ‘Little Khodorkovskys,’ Zlobin Says

Paul Goble

Staunton, January 24 – Many both inside Russia and abroad have focused on the injustice that the Russian state continues to visit on former Yukos chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky. That is a good thing, one Moscow commentator says, but it should not distract attention from the reality that Russia today is “a country of ‘little Khodorkhovskys’” whose rights are also being violated.
In a comment on his blog later picked up by Ekho Moskvy, Nikolay Zlobin argues that “a legal or illegal state is created not by judicial cases of the size of YUKOS but by an enormous number of petty daily matters, which make up our lives” ( and
As he points out, “the YUKOS case has become a litmus test according justly or not people in the world today judge about the absence of the holy law of property in Russia, about the dependence of its judicial system and about the growing difference between the good intentions and real steps of President Dmitry Medvedev.”
But as those who live “inside the country” know, the YUKOS case is hardly the only one that matters. “Russians ona daily basis encounter judicial arbitrariness and incompetence officials, selective application of laws, and the corruption of government organs.” And consequently, justice for Khodorkovsky alone won’t necessarily solve the problems they face.
Indeed, “that Russia is not a legal state, its citizens have found out not from Judge Danilkin [who presided over the latest round of the travails of Khodorkovsky], any decision of which was, is and always will be extremely far from their daily life but from their own daily life itself.”
Much more important for these people than any sentence in the YUKOS case as regards the formation of a legal state “are numerous daily events,” such as the travails of Dr. Ivan Khrenov who told Vladimir Putin that “the local powers that be had deceived him during his visit to local medical institutions by creating medical Potemkin villages.”
And even the fact that the Ivanovo governor intervened in Khrenov’s behalf, while welcome in one regard, is troubling in another, Zlobin argues, because it is yet another indication that normal procedures cannot be followed and the judicial system cannot be trusted to function in a legal way.
Instead, that case shows how little progress Russian officials have made from the days of obkom secretaries of the Communist Party. “What a legal state this is!” Zlobin exclaims. And in some ways the current situation is even worse because it is more hypocritical and cynical than its predecessor.
And what is even more disturbing, Khrenov’s case is “only one example of the hundreds which arise every day in Russia.” The case of journalist Oleg Kashin is another. After he was beaten, President Medvedev promised to “tear off the head of those who did this.” That may sound good to some, but is there really a provision in Russian law allowing that?
Perhaps, Zlobin says, Medvedev has recently read “Alice in Wonderland” and decided to behave like the queen described therein. Again, some may find his feelings positive, but “with criminals who beat a journalists one must act according to the law and only according to the law” whatever one’s emotions.
Russians need to be sure that their president will oversee the implementation of the laws rather than allow himself such outbursts. Such words when uttered by the powers that be spread throughout society and poison it, Zlobin notes, saying that he recently heard a seven-year-old use the same expression Medvedev had.
That boy was only playing a video game, Zlobin continues, and “he, unlike the president, did not guess about the existence of some kind of ‘legal field.’”
Some may say that these are only “details,” but the Moscow commentator continues, everyone needs to understand that “the second YUKOS case became possible only in an atmosphere of such ‘details,’ and not the other way around. In a country of ‘little Khodorkovskys.’” And only by recognizing and fighting that can the situation improve.

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