Thursday

23rd Nov 2017

Khodorkovsky sentence could impact EU-Russia relations

The EU has indicated that the severity of punishment meted out to Mikhail Khodorkovsky could impact bilateral relations after Moscow courts found the oil tycoon guilty of embezzlement on Monday (27 December).

"The European Union will continue to follow developments very closely, including the forthcoming announcement of the sentence ... the EU expects Russia to respect its international commitments in the field of human rights and the rule of law," a spokesman for EU foreign relations chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement emailed to press four hours after the guilty verdict was made public.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Khodorkovsky and his business partner, Platon Lebedev, are expected to be sentenced in the coming days (Photo: khodorkoskycenter.com)

It is unclear what the EU might do if Mr Khodorkovsky is sentenced to between five and 15 years in prison, as expected.

The case has attracted interest at the highest levels in Brussels: EU commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso and EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy reportedly voiced concerns about it in personal conversations with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at an EU-Russia summit in early December.

Meanwhile, Ms Ashton in a strategy paper on Russia presented to EU leaders two weeks' ago, said the Union "can use considerable issue-based leverage" to press for progress on human rights. Russia is keen for the EU to drop visa requirements for Russian travelers and to encourage high-tech European companies to help modernise its economy.

The EU and Russia recently agreed the first practical steps to take in 2011 on their so-called Partnership for Modernisation.

For his part, Mr Khodorkovsky's lawyer, Vadim Klyuvgant, told this website on Monday that the guilty verdict underlines Russia's lack of respect for private property rights in a worrying sign for foreign investors. "It was many times declared from the West that this case is a test for Russia about the rule of law, independent courts and modernisation. The test is failed. Why not say this clearly?" he said.

Mr Klyuvgant believes Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and energy chief Igor Sechin attacked Mr Khodorkovsky in order to profit from the break-up of his oil company, Yukos, and to destroy him as a potential political opponent.

Many commentators agree.

Amnesty International's top analyst on Russia, Nicola Duckworth, said in a statement on Monday that: "The Russian authorities' consistent disregard for due process in this trial only strengthens the impression that this second round of convictions has been politically motivated." German human rights commissioner and liberal politician Markus Loning said: "I am deeply disgusted about the guilty verdict ... It shows that President Medvedev's rhetoric on [improving] rule of law is actually just rhetoric."

The reading of the guilty verdict in Moscow attracted a small group of protesters who shouted anti-Putin slogans outside the courthouse.

But a leaked US cable dating to December 2009 noted: "Most Russians believe the Khodorkovsky trial is politically motivated; they simply do not care that it is. Human rights activists in general have an uphill battle in overcoming public apathy and cynicism."

Another US cable from 2008 described the "squalid" conditions which the 47-year-old Mr Khodorkovsky, once Russia's richest man, faces in jail. The memo spoke of cells where prisoners have just two square metres each, go to the toilet in buckets and have a high risk of tuberculosis infection. "Some prisoners were then stripped to the waist, stretched out over tables and beaten with billy clubs by the guards. This is routine behavior," the cable said on treatment of prisoners in one facility.

EU ministers declare war on Lukashenko

In a separate development, four EU foreign ministers - from the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland and Sweden - have in a joint statement said they will take Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko to task for his crackdown on protesters after elections earlier this month.

Hundreds of demonstrators remain unaccounted for in police custody, while fears grow that 64-year-old opposition candidate Vladimir Neklyayev may have been beaten to death.

The EU ministers said in an acidic op-ed in the International Herald Tribune on 23 December: "There can be no business-as-usual between the European Union and Belarus' president, Aleksandr Lukashenko, after what has happened."

The letter depicted Mr Lukashenko as being worse than the late Serb autocrat Slobodan Milosevic and compared his actions to the imposition of Martial Law in Poland in 1981.

"Continued positive engagement with Mr Lukashenko at the moment seems to be a waste of time and money," it added. "We must now deepen our engagement with the democrats of Belarus and those inside the government who disapprove of the fateful turn their country has taken."

Mali blames West for chaos in Libya

Mali's foreign minister Abdoulaye Diop told the EU in Brussels that the lack of vision and planning following the Nato-led bombing campaign in Libya helped trigger the current migration and security crisis.

Opinion

The EU's half-hearted Ostpolitik

If, as the EU claims, the Eastern Partnership summit is not a format for conflict resolution, where else will the security issues that hold the region back be resolved?

News in Brief

  1. December euro summit still on, Tusk confirms
  2. EU calls for end to Kenya election crisis
  3. Report: Israeli PM invited to meet EU ministers
  4. French banks close Le Pen accounts
  5. Commission relaxes rules on labelling free range eggs
  6. Commission issues €34m fine over car equipment cartel
  7. Estonian presidency 'delighted' with emissions trading vote
  8. Mladic found guilty of genocide and war crimes

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Idealist Quarterly"Dear Politics, Time to Meet Creativity!" Afterwork Discussion & Networking
  2. Mission of China to the EUAmbassador Zhang Ming Received by Tusk; Bright Future for EU-China Relations
  3. EU2017EEEstonia, With the ECHAlliance, Introduces the Digital Health Society Declaration
  4. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement For All Families? Same Sex Couple Ask EU Court for Recognition
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC to French President Macron: We Oppose All Contact With Far-Right & Far-Left
  6. EPSUWith EU Pillar of Social Rights in Place, Time Is Ticking for Commission to Deliver
  7. ILGA EuropeBan on LGBTI Events in Ankara Must Be Overturned
  8. Bio-Based IndustriesBio-Based Industries: European Growth is in Our Nature!
  9. Dialogue PlatformErdogan's Most Vulnerable Victims: Women and Children
  10. UNICEFEuropean Parliament Marks World Children's Day by Launching Dialogue With Children
  11. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  12. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure

Latest News

  1. Mali blames West for chaos in Libya
  2. Orban stokes up his voters with anti-Soros 'consultation'
  3. Commission warns Italy over high debt level
  4. Mladic found guilty for Bosnia genocide and war crimes
  5. Uber may face fines in EU for keeping data breach secret
  6. EU counter-propaganda 'harms' relations, Russia says
  7. The EU's half-hearted Ostpolitik
  8. Glyphosate: 1.3 million EU citizens call for ban

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  2. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  3. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'
  4. UNICEFAhead of the African Union - EU Summit, Survey Highlights Impact of Conflict on Education
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Calls for Closer Co-Operation on Foreign Policy
  6. Swedish EnterprisesTrilogue Negotiations - Striking the Balance Between Transparency and Efficiency
  7. Access EuropeProspects for US-EU Relations Under the Trump Administration - 28 November 2017
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable Growth the Nordic Way: Climate Solutions for a Sustainable Future
  9. EU2017EEHow Data Fuels Estonia's Economy
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Step Up Water Management Cooperation
  11. CECEMachinery Industry Calls for Joint EU Approach to Develop Digital Construction Sector
  12. EnelNo ETS Deal Means It Can Still Be Strengthened