Thursday, February 09, 2006

Putin on Khodorkovsky

During his interview to the Spanish media in Madrid on February 7, Vladimir Putin had this to say about the fate of former YUKOS CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, now serving a 9-year sentence in a Siberian prison camp (via
QUESTION: Mr President, you held a big press conference a few days ago where you gave detailed answers to many different questions. I would like to ask a question that was not raised on that occasion but that interests the public and the media nevertheless.

Some people here say that what is happening to [Mikhail] Khodorkovsky is revenge. I would not like to think this. Nevertheless, putting someone in an isolation cell just because he had a document detailing his rights: is this routine behaviour or is this an exceptional case? Did the prison authorities have particular orders in this regard or were they advised to take this line of behaviour?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: To be honest, I don't actually know what you are talking about. What I know is that there was a court decision, that the court passed a guilty verdict and that Khodorkovsky was convicted and sent to prison.

QUESTION: His lawyer said that he was put in an isolation cell because the Justice Ministry documents did not state what his rights are, and that is not to mention the fact the he was sent to Chita, which is a long way from home.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Prison is not a rest home. Prisoners are sent where it is deemed necessary to send them. People who have been convicted by the courts do not get to choose where they will carry out their sentence. It is the Justice Ministry that makes this decision.

To be honest, this is the first that I have heard of Mr Khodorkovsky being put in an isolation cell. As for whether this could be some kind of revenge. I don't understand who could want this, and for what reason? If he broke a rule, then the prison authorities would have reacted in accordance, but I don't actually know anything about this.

QUESTION: Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote about it, his lawyers wrote about it. I read about it in your press.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: It's good that our press is writing about all these things, but the fact of the matter is that I simply do not get time to read everything. Now that you have brought this matter to my attention, however, I will certainly ask the Justice Ministry what is going on here, where he has been sent and for what?

But the prison system, the prison colony, this is not the corporation where he was the one in charge and the one who gave the orders. Now he has to obey the rules of the establishment where he has been sent.
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