RFE/RL reports that Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been sent to serve his sentence in Chita Oblast, in eastern Siberia. The camp lies near the Chinese border, some 5,000 kilometers from his native Moscow:
In order to visit him, his relatives and lawyers will now have to take a six-hour flight from the Russian capital, followed by a seven-hour car ride.Lev Ponomarev, director of the All-Russian Movement For Human Rights, says sending Khodorkovsky to Siberia is a violation of Russian law, which stipulates that inmates must serve their sentences close to their homes:
His transfer to a remote prison, Ponomarev told RFE/RL, is the latest move in the Kremlin's bid to punish him for his political ambitions.
"It's revenge on the part of the authorities, of the Kremlin, and of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin personally," Ponomarev said. "It violates Russian law because relatives cannot visit them [Khodorkovskii and fellow defendant Platon Lebedev]. Our country is headed by small-minded, vindictive people. Mere revenge -- that's the only motive."
The Khodorkovskii case has raised serious concern in the West about Putin's commitment to democratic values.
Ponomarev says he hopes Western countries will not balk at denouncing Khodorkovskii's transfer to a Siberian prison.
"I think leaders of Western countries have a duty to react to this," he said. "I am very much hoping that the Western world will react to this, will force our leaders to adhere to their own laws in this particular case."