"I’ve been fighting for his liberation for some time, and I believe he is a political prisoner in the hands of Putin.” - Elie Wiesel, Nobel laureate

Since Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were arrested in 2003, Amnesty International has continually expressed concern over their treatment in detention. In May 2011, Amnesty International designated them both to be prisoners of conscience, jailed for the non-violent expression of their political beliefs, and called for their release. The position of Amnesty International echoes that of other international NGOs, including Human Rights Watch and Freedom House, as well as world leaders across the globe, in recognising the political nature of the campaign of persecution waged against Khodorkovsky.

Even in detention and under the constant risk of reprisals from the prison authorities, Khodorkovsky has not been deterred from speaking out on the pressing need for change in Russia. From his prison cell he has become a renowned commentator on economic, political and social issues, penning numerous articles in leading national and international publications. He has engaged in written exchanges with famed writers such as Lyudmila Ulitskaya and Boris Akunin, some of which were subsequently published to critical acclaim. Khodorkovsky continues his public engagement to the extent that he can despite his incarceration and despite the risk that his continued presence in the political arena poses to his hopes for release.


For his acclaimed writings and brave commitment to a free and democratic Russia, Khodorkovsky has received or has been nominated for numerous prizes.

Sakharov Prize for Journalism as an Act of Conscience

In December 2011, Khodorkovsky was one of fourteen finalists nominated for the Sakharov Prize for Journalism as an Act of Conscience, for his articles published in Novaya Gazeta. Since 2001, the prize has been awarded to journalists who defend the values of the eminent Soviet nuclear physicist, dissident and human rights activist Andrei Sakharov. Khodorkovsky’s mother, Marina, received an honorary certificate on her son’s behalf.

Dr Rainer Hildebrandt Medal

In December 2010, Khodorkovsky was awarded the Dr Rainer Hildebrandt Medal, an international human rights award in recognition of extraordinary, non-violent commitment to human rights. Khodorkovsky won the award alongside his human rights lawyer, Yuri Schmidt, and Hungarian reformer Imre Pozsgay. The jury for the award includes, amongst others, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Henry Kissinger, President of Germany Joachim Gauck and former German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher. In a laudatory speech, Markus Löning, the German government’s human rights commissioner, expressed his respect for Khodorkovsky for standing for a free Russia where human rights have meaning. In a letter to Khodorkovsky, Nobel Literature Prize Laureate Herta Müller underlined that he is imprisoned because “he called for democracy in Russia” and compared his commitment to a peaceful transition with that of Chinese Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo.

Newsmaker of the Year

In October 2010, Ekho Mosvky Radio announced the creation of a Newsmaker of the Year Award, giving the title to a different individual for the past twenty years. For 2003, the year of his arrest, the award was attributed to Khodorkovsky. Other recipients included the murdered journalist Anna Politkovskaya for 2006 and Russia’s market reform architect Yegor Gaidar for 1992.

European of the Week

In May 2010, Khodorkovsky was named “European of the week” by Radio France International for his ongoing capacity to force the Kremlin to react, despite his imprisonment since 2003. The award came after the success of a hunger strike by Khodorkovsky, which drew then-President Medvedev’s attention to the disrespect of Russian officials and courts for recent legal reforms. RFI awarded Khodorkovsky this honour again in 2013, following his 50th birthday on June 26.

Znamya Literary Prize

In January 2010, Khodorkovsky received a literary prize for his correspondence with Russian Booker Prize recipient Lyudmila Ulitskaya. The annual prize, which has been awarded by Znamya magazine for more than 20 years, was received by Khodorkovsky’s daughter Anastasia at a ceremony in Moscow. The prize funds were donated to the Podmoskovny Lyceum in Koralovo.

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