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Mikhail Khodorkovsky

Tag Archives | Mikhail Khodorkovsky

Mikhail Khodorkovsky warns Europe on Russia sanctions

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Wikimedia
Wikimedia

Wikimedia

Former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky has warned against further sanctions on Moscow for its role in Ukraine’s current crisis. In an interview with the BBC, he said Europe risked playing into the hands of nationalists trying to isolate Russia. Instead, he urged EU leaders to help Ukraine become more stable, saying this could encourage change in Russia.

Mr. Khodorkovsky was Russia’s richest businessman until he fell out with the Kremlin and spent 10 years in prison. He has taken a keen interest in the crisis in Ukraine since being released and sent into exile abroad at the end of last year. Mr. Khodorkovsky told the BBC that Ukraine had entered a “slow burn civil war” but he said he did not believe Russian President Vladimir Putin was planning to invade eastern Ukraine.

Mr. Putin had “lost control” of events in Russia’s neighbor, Mr. Khodorkovsky said, citing the Kremlin’s recent inability to stop a referendum by pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk. But he said Europe’s reaction to events in Ukraine threatened to exacerbate renewed Russian nationalism, stirred up by the Russian president’s annexing of Crimea. Mr. Khodorkovsky argues that EU leaders should avoid further sanctions on Moscow and concentrate their efforts on encouraging political reform in Kiev. Russia could become even more authoritarian, he says, if the situation in Ukraine deteriorates and allows Mr. Putin to exploit a power vacuum in the country.

The BBC’s Bridget Kendall in Moscow says Mr. Khodorkovsky is not without his critics. He was seen by many Russians as one of the hated class of oligarchs, who made their fortunes in semi-legal circumstances in the chaotic years following the Soviet Union’s collapse. But his arrest and long years of incarceration turned him from Russia’s richest oil tycoon into the country’s most famous political opponent of President Putin, our correspondent says.

Kremlin Human Rights Watchdog’s New Master

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Dmitry Medvedev chairing the Human Rights Council.  Source: Kremlin Press Office

In two days, Vladimir Putin will be inaugurated for this third term as the President of the Russian Federation.

Dmitry Medvedev chairing the Human Rights Council. Source: Kremlin Press Office

And with his reentry into the nation’s chief position, the issue of human rights and the development of civil society, a touted reform in the past four years under current President Medvedev, face an uncertain future. Earlier this week President Medvedev’s held his final meeting with the Kremlin’s Council on the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights. With their terms expiring on Monday, the departing council members did not hold back their disappointment of the Council’s accomplishments and criticism of the Kremlin’s unwillingness to make true reform.

The Council Chairman Mikhail Fedotov opened the meeting by raising his concerns to the exiting President that the council, though it has helped passed a number of laws, has still a long way to go on issues of police and anti-corruption reform. He described the current government apparatus as “sufficiently bulky, archaic, and clumsy.” After the meeting in an interview with the press, Fedotov warned that if under President Putin the members of the Council were to be replaced by “generals” and “those who attack human rights,” he would have no interest in being part of such a Council.

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Russia and the WTO: The Politics of Economics

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Russia officially becoming a member of the World Trade Organization

After a nearly two-decade accession process completed, the World Trade Organization has welcomed Russia as a member, pending formal ratification from the Duma that is expected to be completed next June.

Russia officially becoming a member of the World Trade Organization

The Kremlin has been struggling to achieve membership in the WTO since 1993. The process was slowed as interest has been mixed over the past decade under the Putin administration, which desired the growth achieved by China but was reluctant to cede any power to the private sector or foreign interests. The Kremlin’s push to join the organization came as a response to the ailing domestic economy suffering from a lack in foreign investment and falling commodities prices. Coupled with growing discontent with the current administration, Russian leaders seem to understand that a fundamental change is necessary and, with the state of the contemporary global economy, can only be achieved with assistance from without.

As Russia moves forward to join the international community with membership in the WTO, its government leaders continue to rely on the strategies of the past decades to insure the retention of their political power. The protests against the overt fraud and corruption in Russia’s recent parliamentary elections, coupled with the heavy-handed response from the Kremlin and the censorship of social-media, led domestic political-analysts to state that “in Putin’s view, these [protest] leaders need to be frightened, or bought off, or destroyed, or discredited, or threatened with legal measures.” Modernizing Russia has been a long and arduous task that has pitted the government and private sector against each other, undermining the nation’s progress and stability.

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Evolving Russian-Western Relations

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President Obama talks with Dmitry Medvedev in France. Pete Souza/White House

Russia has recently emerged as an important ally of the United States. Not only does the United States need Russian assistance in dealing with uncooperative states and in a supporting role in Afghanistan, but Europe is also finding Russian cooperation to be extremely useful. As the United States and NATO seek Russian assistance in several global regions, these states and institutions are recognizing that Moscow is no longer as dependent on their support as it once was.

President Obama talks with Dmitry Medvedev in France. Pete Souza/White House

However, these states and institutions are learning that relying on Russian assistance around the globe does have a price. For example, due to Russian objections, the United States canceled its land-based missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, in favor of a sea-based system. Europe is paying more for natural gas from Russia, and in some cases access to natural gas is limited in the wake of payment disputes between Russia’s Gazprom and Ukraine.

Since 1945, Russia has been an important global player, due to its immense size, nuclear arsenal and permanent membership on the U.N. Security Council. While Russia endured severe growing pains following the collapse of the Soviet Union, it has since rebounded; and, in some situations, directly challenges the supremacy of the United States and NATO. Failed economic transition, along with the weight of IMF and World Bank loans, created the stage for a structural economic policy implemented in the 1990s by Boris Yeltsin, which involved the state selling off managing shares or whole industries, in order to add liquidity to the Russian economy. This policy had far-reaching ramifications. The oligarchs gobbled up nearly all state industries.

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