Sergei Guriev, the Russian economist and former rector of the New Economic School in Moscow, who immigrated to France in the summer 2013 in the wake of interrogations by the Investigative Committee regarding the Khodorkovsky case, was interviewed by The Voice of America.
An excerpt from his dialog with VOA correspondent, Danila Galperovich, can be read below.
D. Galperovich: When we spoke last year in June, right after your departure, then, if I may say so, we discussed political reasons for your move. It will soon be one year since that conversation. What, in your opinion, is changing in Russia, from an outside point of view?
S. Guriev: I think that the most important changes have happened very recently – with the Crimea crisis. The annexation of Crimea is a new level of unpredictability. It was something that no one could predict. I remember that Putin was saying, two weeks before the annexation of Crimea, that there were no talks about invasion. Moreover, the release of Khodorkovsky and Pussy Riot probably wouldn’t happen now. Therefore it means that the Crimea crisis was a totally unexpected event.
The second change is the slowdown in economic growth, as I said before, to the point of nought or even below. It is obvious that if, instead of reforms, the country heads towards isolation, then this is what should be expected. However, it happened too fast.
For these reasons it can be unpleasantly concluded that there isn’t any thaw happening. On the contrary, increased repressions and the removal of restrictions on any propaganda can be expected. In this context, it is hard to imagine that in the coming months the situation will be positive for personal and political freedom appreciators.
D. Galperovich: Do I understand correctly, that, given your description of the changes in the situation with internal politics, there is no option of your return to Russia?
S. Guriev: It is not just the situation. The fact is that nothing has changed in my relationship with the Russian law enforcement agencies. Despite the fact that Khodorkovsky was pardoned, the case was not closed – the case is being prolonged. Even after Khodorkovsky’s pardon, the case was extended once again, a month ago. This means that nobody is going to close the case, nobody is going to apologise to the ‘Yukos case’ victims, and especially to Khodorkovsky and Lebedev.
In this sense, I have no reasons to think that it is safe for me to return to Russia. I won’t risk my freedom. I think that it is better to live abroad than lose my freedom in Russia. In the near future, I, unfortunately, won’t be able to go to Russia.