The appeal processes of deposed oligarchs Mijaíl Khodorkovski (ex president and general manager of Yukos) and Platon Lebedev (ex president and general manager of Menatep) began on September 14 in Russia and have been the targets of procedural struggles. Their defense attorneys have accused the Russian justice of speeding up the processes so that lawyers have no time to work on the files. On the other hand, district attorneys have accused the defense attorneys of obstructing the course of justice. However, what has been at risk here is the day of the verdict. Mijail Khodorkovski has launched his nomination for Moscow’s partial legislative elections despite being in jail. The Russian justice had sentenced him at a lower court, along with Platon Lebedev, to nine years in prison for fraud and tax evasion. But the Russian Law allows convicts to be nominated if the appeal has not been presented. The elections Mijaíl Khodorkovski was nominated to will be held on December 4. But the candidacy will only be valid if the sentence is not given before the deadline for candidacy registrations in October.
Mijaíl Khodorkovski’s lawyers, therefore, are doing their best to gain time. His principal lawyer, Guenrikh Padva, has been hospitalized and the defense has asked for an extension. The court, then, told the defendant to find another lawyer but he has rejected this demand. Before this, the defense had already stated its client could only meet with his lawyers after the quarantine. The administration of the Russian penitentiary affirmed he had been exposed to a serious infection spread by another inmate.

Both parties’ procedural maneuvers have pushed justice into the background. However, the ex oligarch’s defense is not fighting here. Canadian lawyer Robert R. Amsterdam, member of Khodorkovski’s defense team, told German journal Der Spiegel in an interview that the Russian justice is nothing but an institution at the service of the Russian power whose integrity should not be considered. He also admitted his client was completely sure he’d lose the appeal and try to gain time. In view of the image of the justice in Russia, the lawyer focuses no longer on judicial matters but on political ones. For him, his client is the only opposition to President Putin. He presents Russian opposition parties as clients of the Kremlin whose job is to sell Putin’s idea of pluralism to a Vladimir Putin’s closed system. He also announced that his client will carry out a surprising action against the government very soon but nobody says anything. The thing is: if the judicial order is unfair and the Russian democratic system is an illusion, what field could be chosen by the deposed oligarch to destabilize the Kremlin?
Whatever the case is, for Western Atlantists the issue is quite clear: whichever his faults may be, Khodorkhovski is the victim of an unfair judicial treatment and his process shows how authoritarian Moscow’s power is.

A reporter in Russia, author of many articles in the Anglo-Saxon press, editorialist Masha Gessen of the Bolshoi Gorod, has denounced the maneuvers of the power against Khodorkovski in the Moscow Times, a Russian journal in English. By talking about a survey made by the Levada Center in which Khodorkovski’s victory is anticipated, she regrets the publication of such results. For her, the Kremlin would do its best to prevent Khodorkovski’s presentation. But the situation is even more disturbing for, according to her, these are the last elections for the Duma in which people will have a ballot for a single candidate. Paradoxically, she believes that in an upcoming vote for several candidates there would be a democratic decline.
The presentation of these changes in voting as a direct way to authoritarianism is very common in the Atlantist media that attack Vladimir Putin’s political figure. However, such an argument is only applied to the Russian case because the system of voting based on a list is used in many democracies and its implementation in Iraq has been presented as a big step forwards by those who oppose its implementation in Russia.

French lawyer Patrick Klugman, a member of the Consultative Council of Jewish Organizations (CCJO) and SOS Racism, denounces in Le Monde the oligarch’s process by presenting it as an example of the current political situation in Russia and attacks the Russian justice. Even when he recognizes Khodorkovski’s crimes, he says Khodorkovski did not have a fair trial. We asks the international community to mobilize in favour of the multimillionaire and adopts a rhetoric similar to that of the supporters of the Soviet dissidents. It may be shocking that ithe very spokesman of issues related to anti-Semitism of the SOS Racism is giving his opinions because, above all, in his attacks with regard to the Khodorkovski case we see no references to an anti-Semitic attitude. However, the oligarch’s defense has tried to present quite often the judicial problems of his client as a sign of a Russian atavistic anti-Semitism. He doesn’t say anything about the issue, but Klugman’s functions, recalled by the French journal, lead people to think about this thesis without presenting them as explicit accusations, which are difficult to support.
This comparison between the current Russia and the USSR is also present in the forum that the editor in chief of the Carnegie Moscow Center, Masha Lipman, published in the Washington Post. Even when she still affirms that Vladimir Putin is very popular, she affirms he’s doing all his best to destroy the opposition that might emerge in the heart of the civil society. She denounces the creation of an assembly in charge of representing the NGOs before the government. As an evidence of the corruption of this institution she points out the nomination of a person that signed a petition against... Mijaíl Khodorkovski.
As we can see, it’s very difficult to eliminate the heritage of the Cold War in the western media. The totalitarian USSR and Vladimir Putin’s Russia could not be compared. And no comparison should be made either between the dissidents sent to gulag and an oligarch sentenced for tax evasion after having plundered his country.
The Khodorkovski case is not the first example of what we have said. When a European leader meets with his Russian counterpart, the western press wonders if they’ll talk about human rights. But, when the meeting is between American and European leaders, the Western press wonders if they’re going to strengthen the ties between both sides of the Atlantic. Even when the Cold War is officially over, it’s still alive in the people’s minds.
The viewpoint of the Arab press is completely different. In these countries, Russia is not seen as the descendant of the USSR or the threatening ogre, but as the successor of the Soviet ally against the American-Israeli imperialism. Therefore, in view of the reorganization of the Middle East orchestrated by Washington, the Russian aid is expected.
In January 2005, journalist Walid Abou Morshed of the Asharqalawsat, , explained this in a perfect way. According to him, the current weakness of the Arab world before the Bush Administration is the consequence of Russia’s weakness. He urged Moscow to pay more attention to the region and welcomed the delivery of Russian missiles to Syria.