FAQ

  • When and where was Khodorkovsky born?

  • Khodorkovsky was born on June 26, 1963, in Moscow.

  • What can I do to help?

  • Khodorkovsky is grateful for the domestic and international support he has received to keep the injustice of his case – and its systemic consequences – in the public eye. To find out more about how you can take action, please visit the “How You Can Help” page of this website.

  • Where can I read Khodorkovsky’s writings and interviews?

  • Articles written and interviews given by Khodorkovsky can be accessed through the “Writings” and “Interviews” pages of this website.

  • What is the role of the European Court of Human Rights in Khodorkovsky’s case?

  • The European Convention on Human Rights is an international treaty under which the members of the Council of Europe, which include Russia, commit to securing fundamental civil and political rights to everyone within their jurisdiction. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), in Strasbourg, France, monitors respect for human rights in countries of the Council of Europe that have ratified the Convention. The ECtHR’s rulings are binding on the countries concerned. Khodorkovsky has submitted a series of applications to the ECtHR to establish that in the proceedings against him Russia has flagrantly and relentlessly violated the Convention. Financial redress for breaches of property rights is not the purpose of Khodorkovsky’s applications to the ECtHR. Click here to read more about Khodorkovsky’s applications to the ECtHR.

  • Do NGOs support Khodorkovsky?

  • International NGOs, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Freedom House, and Russian NGOs, including Memorial and the Sakharov Centre, have long supported Khodorkovsky. Of particular note, after years of expressing concern over Khodorkovsky’s unfair treatment, in May 2011, Amnesty International officially designated him as a “prisoner of conscience”, jailed for the non-violent expression of his political beliefs, and called for his release. Click here to read statements of support for Khodorkovsky from NGOs.

  • What support has Khodorkovsky received internationally?

  • Prior to his arrest Khodorkovsky was already well known internationally as Russia’s most successful entrepreneur and as a pioneering Russian philanthropist. Following his arrest he received a huge outpouring of support from the international community, which condemned the use of false legal pretexts to prosecute him for political reasons. A modern pantheon of world leaders have expressed their concern over Khodorkovsky’s persecution. Click here to read statements from Khodorkovsky’s supporters worldwide.

  • Why does Khodorkovsky matter to the international community?

  • Khodorkovsky’s persecution is proof that the rule of law does not prevail in Russia. From human rights to property rights, Khodorkovsky’s plight reveals that principles of democracy and justice are trampled at will by the power in place through vicious, unconcealed and systemic abuses of state authority. Khodorkovsky’s continued imprisonment is a triumph of corrupt officials controlling Russia’s law enforcement and judicial bodies, and seizing Russia’s industrial wealth, through an entrenched system holding back an entire country that aspires yet continually fails to modernise. The international community has a different vision, in line with Khodorkovsky’s own vision, for a prosperous Russia with a vibrant democracy and market economy, actively and constructively engaged in the world.

  • What support has Khodorkovsky received in Russia?

  • Many of Russia’s most admired and trusted figures, from civic activists, journalists, novelists, musicians and artists, to jurists, economists, government officials and business leaders, have expressed their support for Khodorkovsky. Moscow journalist and author Masha Gessen has described Khodorkovsky as “the Nelson Mandela of Russia.” During the 2012 presidential election campaign, all candidates – except for Vladimir Putin – declared that they would release Khodorkovsky if elected. One candidate, Mikhail Prokhorov, went as far as stating he would consider appointing Khodorkovsky as his prime minister. Click here to read statements from Khodorkovsky’s supporters in Russia.

  • Why is Khodorkovsky’s case of significance to Russia?

  • Khodorkovsky’s persecution has been a watershed in Russia’s modern political evolution. His plight was intended to be, and has in fact become, a lesson to all Russian citizens of the limits on the rights and freedoms of the post-Soviet era. Meanwhile, the prospect of his release – repeatedly raised during the 2012 presidential election campaign – has become synonymous with a promise for real change. Through Khodorkovsky’s writings and his interviews, he has become a leading voice for principled civic engagement, political renewal and economic modernisation – even whilst languishing in jail. His writings have appeared in leading Russian and international news media, making headlines and sparking debate on pressing issues facing Russia and the world.

  • Why hasn’t Khodorkovsky requested a pardon?

  • As Khodorkovsky is innocent of all the charges levelled against him, he refuses to request a pardon if by doing so he must admit guilt. In Khodorkovsky’s own words “The current power for some reason considers ‘repentance’ a mandatory condition of pardon. I do not suffer from excessive pride, but to confess to non-existent crimes is for me unacceptable. Bearing false witness is a sin.” He has also stated: “Perjury is a grave sin…By saving oneself this way, you drown others…I will not buy freedom at the cost of perjury.”

  • Can Khodorkovsky be pardoned?

  • The Russian Constitution enshrines a presidential power to pardon prisoners. However, President Vladimir Putin and former President Dmitry Medvedev have stated that Khodorkovsky cannot benefit from a presidential pardon unless Khodorkovsky requests the pardon himself and admits guilt. This contradicts Russian law and practice, and the advice of the Kremlin’s own Human Rights Council which has taken the following position: “The act of pardoning can be issued without the convict’s petition, agreement, approval and even despite one’s own will.”

  • Where is Khodorkovsky currently imprisoned?

  • Since June 2011, Khodorkovsky has been imprisoned in the FBU IK-7 penal colony, near the town of Segezha in the region of Karelia close to the border with Finland. Segezha is located on the west coast of Lake Vygozero, on the route of the White Sea-Baltic Canal. The 227-kilometre canal was built in twenty months by gulag prisoners, thousands of whom died in the process.

  • What is Khodorkovsky’s family background?

  • Khodorkovsky is the only child of Marina and Boris Khodorkovsky, both engineers, who spent much of their lives working at Kalibr, an industrial tool plant in Moscow. Today Khodorkovsky’s parents are retired. When Khodorkovsky was a child his family lived in communal apartment until they were assigned their own two-room apartment in 1971.

  • What is Khodorkovsky’s educational background?

  • As a student Khodorkovsky was particularly interested in chemistry and maths. He studied at Moscow’s Mendeleev Institute of Chemical Technologies and graduated in chemical engineering in 1986.

  • What is Khodorkovsky’s marital status?

  • Khodorkovsky has been married to Inna Khodorkovskaya since 1990. A prior marriage, to Elena Dobrovolskaya, ended in divorce.

  • Does Khodorkovsky have children?

  • Khodorkovsky has four children. His son Pavel was born in 1985, his daughter Anastasia was born in 1991, and his twin sons Gleb and Ilya were born in 1999.

  • How did Khodorkovsky begin his business career?

  • Khodorkovsky is a talented entrepreneur who embraced the developing free market as Russia was turning away from communism in the glasnost and perestroika era. He opened his first business, a café, in 1986. The following year he founded the Youth Centre for Scientific and Technical Development, to provide market research to large manufacturers and introduce them to new technologies. In 1989, following the development of a successful import-export business, he acquired a banking license and with several business partners formed Bank Menatep, one of the first commercial banks in Russia. Subsequently, Khodorkovsky and his business partners established Rosprom, a diversified holding company, precursor of Group Menatep Limited.

  • When and how did Khodorkovsky acquire Yukos?

  • In 1996, Khodorkovsky and his business partners invested in a majority stake in Yukos when the company was put up for privatisation under the Yeltsin administration’s “loans for shares” programme, though which investors lent the state money in return for the right to purchase state assets. Yukos was acquired for $309 million, the price set by the state in the privatisation process. At the time, Russia prohibited foreign investors from acquiring assets in its oil industry. In fact, few foreign investors had any appetite for Yukos assets due to the real prospect of a return to power of the communists in the 1996 presidential election. Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov had promised to reverse privatisations if elected.

  • What was Yukos like in the early and mid-1990s?

  • With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia inherited huge state-owned industries run by ineffective “red managers” resistant to modernisation and plagued by corruption and organised crime. The Russian state created the Yukos Oil Company in 1993 by bringing together a group of Soviet-era enterprises involved in oil extraction and refining. At the time, Yukos’s wells produced a fraction of their capacity at inflated costs. By the time Yukos was acquired by Khodorkovsky and his business partners, the company was a mess, and saddled with between $2-3 billion in debt.

  • How was Yukos transformed during Khodorkovsky’s leadership?

  • As other Russian oil companies continued to be plagued by corruption and Soviet-era inefficiencies, Khodorkovsky led Yukos through an historic transformation. In the span of a few years, he increased the company’s efficiencies and ramped up production. He transformed Yukos along the lines of western business models, including through the introduction of corporate transparency, the adoption of western accounting standards, the hiring of western management, the creation of an independent board of directors with a corporate governance subcommittee, corporate growth through mergers and acquisitions, and increased western investments. By 2003, Yukos and its subsidiaries had a market capitalisation of $21 billion, and produced 20 percent of Russia’s oil – the equivalent of 2 percent of world production.

  • When was Khodorkovsky arrested?

  • On October 25, 2003, armed commandos stormed a jet on the tarmac of a Siberian airport and arrested Khodorkovsky at gunpoint. He was immediately taken to Moscow, ostensibly to appear as a witness in an investigation underway there. However, within hours after being delivered to the authorities for questioning in Moscow, Khodorkovsky was charged with fraud and tax evasion and has been in detention ever since.

  • Why was Khodorkovsky arrested and imprisoned?

  • There were two principal motives behind Khodorkovsky’s arrest and imprisonment: eliminating him as an outspoken critic and opponent of the Kremlin , and seizing the assets of Yukos to bring them under the control and ownership of Kremlin allies. The October 2003 arrest occurred just prior to Russia’s December 2003 parliamentary election and March 2004 presidential election, eliminating Khodorkovsky from active engagement in the political sphere.

  • Why was there a second trial against Khodorkovsky?

  • In advance of the second trial, the timing of the charges, announced in February 2007, ensured that Khodorkovsky was behind bars during the December 2007 parliamentary election and the March 2008 presidential election. In addition to keeping Khodorkovsky isolated from the Russian political sphere for those elections and well into the future, the second trial was intended to stain even further his reputation and to whitewash and distract attention from corrupt and criminal actions committed by high-ranking Russian officials in the destruction of Yukos.

  • Why didn’t Khodorkovsky flee Russia before his arrest?

  • Khodorkovsky had every opportunity to flee Russia before his arrest – as others who had fallen foul of the Kremlin had done. Moreover, he had reason to believe that he too might be arrested following the arrest of his business partner Platon Lebedev in July 2003 – an event many perceived to be a warning shot to Khodorkovsky. But as a patriot, family man and philanthropist, in addition to being a business leader, he chose not to flee his homeland so he could stand trial and prove his innocence in Russia. In the autumn of 2003, Khodorkovsky had been to the United States to visit his son Pavel, who was pursuing his studies there. Later, reflecting upon his decision to return to Russia, Khodorkovsky stated: “Had I known that ahead were so many years of jail it would have been much harder (for me) to return. But I would not have been able to do otherwise and would have returned nevertheless in order to defend my dignity.”

  • When was Khodorkovsky’s first trial and what was the outcome?

  • Khodorkovsky’s first trial began in June 2004 and concluded with a guilty verdict in May 2005. After an appeal failed to reverse the verdict in September 2005, Khodorkovsky’s sentence was set at eight years. Counting time served since his arrest, his release was scheduled for October 2011.

  • When was Khodorkovsky’s second trial and what was the outcome?

  • Khodorkovsky’s second trial began in March 2009 and concluded with a guilty verdict in December 2010. After an appeal failed to reverse the verdict in May 2011, Khodorkovsky’s sentence was set at thirteen years. Counting time served since his arrest, his release was scheduled for October 2016. Following an appeal hearing in December 2012, that date was brought forward by two years, to October 2014, as a result of changes in Russian sentencing guidelines. Given the history of the case, however, it is far from guaranteed that Khodorkovsky will in fact be released then.