Pavel Khodorkovsky Interviewed By Echo Of Moscow

October 21, 2013

Antonina Samsonova, the UK correspondent of Russian radio station Echo of Moscow, interviewed Pavel Khodorkovsky on October 11.

The English translation of the interview can be read below:

A. SAMSONOVA – Pavel, good day.  When do you think they are going to release your father?

P. KHODORKOVSKY – Good day.  I very much hope to see my father in August of next year.  A lot has happened in the past few years in Russia, and I am very optimistic in that sense; I think the time has come to release my father.  There is a lot that has changed in the country, and I very much hope that he and I are going to be able to see each other at last next summer.

A. SAMSONOVA – This sounds rather optimistic.  But, taking the current situation in Russia into account, what could get in the way of his release?

P. KHODORKOVSKY – They initially locked my father up in prison for his political views, for supporting the opposition.  But of course the desire to re-nationalise Yukos played a big role as well.  Since that time, Rosneft, which now owns the former Yukos assets, has had an IPO and has contracts in place with such companies as BP, Statoil and Exxon. It really has become unrealistic from a practical standpoint to bring the company back. I think that those people who were afraid that once my father got out he would try to get a part of his former oil company back have nothing to fear any more.  My father has turned the page on that part of his life.  He is not planning to be involved in business, and he is not going to be trying to get Yukos back.

A. SAMSONOVA – So your task now is to convince the Kremlin that your father is not a danger for the ruling regime?

P. KHODORKOVSKY – This is not so much my task as I think this has become obvious in the past few years.  A second factor that played a role in my father’s arrest was his political support of the opposition.  At that moment he was one of only a few, and over the course of the past few years he has remained a moral leader of the opposition, the only person on whom people pinned their hopes when they spoke about the country’s political future.  But here again the situation has changed at the root.  There are now many new political players, oppositionists, and the Kremlin really does find itself in a situation where many new problems need to be dealt with in domestic political life that already have nothing to do with my father.

A. SAMSONOVA – But there is the political case of the experts [experts on the Presidential Human Rights Council who called for Khodorkovsky’s release and who were subsequently harassed]…  How on the one hand can you have an expert case and on the other have your father and Platon Lebedev released?

P. KHODORKOVSKY – The harassment of the experts is, in actuality, an attempt by the people who have been working on the Yukos case over the past 10 years to prove how indispensable they are.  This is not the political will of the head of state; it is not the political will of the people who received an income from the re-nationalisation of Yukos.  This is an attempt by the investigators and the prosecutors to secure a prestigious case for themselves.  That is why I think that these two things are not connected at all.

A. SAMSONOVA – What does “secure a prestigious case for themselves” mean?  What do they need this for?

P. KHODORKOVSKY – This is a good opportunity for them, good pay.  Many of these people came to Moscow from other regions of the country.  That is why this is a prestigious case for them.  And I think that this looks like a kind of censorship that has appeared among bureaucrats in the country over the past 10 years.   Very often people do not get direct instructions as to what they should do, but make the decisions themselves taking account of how their actions might find favour with the higher-standing authorities.

A. SAMSONOVA – Over the 10 years that lawyers have been working on the Khodorkovsky case, how much money has been spent on the international and Russian team of lawyers?

P. KHODORKOVSKY – I do not have access to this information.  I was 18 years old when they locked my father up.  And of course at that moment he was not letting me in on the details of his business and was not telling me about how he was going to be planning his defence if he would be locked up in prison.  Any chance for us to discuss this naturally disappeared after his arrest.

A. SAMSONOVA – Do you personally have an idea of the order of magnitude of this sum or does it simply not interest you?

P. KHODORKOVSKY – This question really does not interest me.  I think that the most important fact deserves attention.  It is unimportant how much money my father has left, it is unimportant how much he is spending on his defence in court, but what is important is that the entire state system has been turned against him.  And of course the Russian state has incomparably more financial resources than my father ever had or will have.

A. SAMSONOVA – Unconditionally, from the humanitarian point of view, it is unimportant how much money your father has spent on his defence.  But from the point of view of the trust of citizens and the trust of people in the concept of Khodorkovsky, there is still much talk about how he still has a lot of money left – and despite the fact that he is imprisoned – you have the opportunity to live abroad and to pay, to fund, a foundation that you head [Institute of Modern Russia]. Your father has the right to pay for the best lawyers over the course of several years. All this does indeed raise questions.  Your answer ‘I do not know,’ ‘I was too young,’ does not elicit trust.  Are you deliberately not going to talk about the remaining money, or might it make sense to do this, after all, in order that people in Russia could trust Khodorkovsky more?

P. KHODORKOVSKY – I think that, inasmuch as my father has been imprisoned for the past 10 years and does not have any access to his financial assets, the answer to this question in no way adds to or subtracts from trust in him.  Father can spend literally several thousand rubles [1000 rubles = c£19] per month for food products at the stall that is accessible to the people who are spending their time involuntarily in the colony, and he also has several thousand roubles more that he can spend on telephone cards in order to ring his family.  For that reason, from this standpoint, how much money the family has left – money that was obtained in a lawful way and that was paid out as dividends by Yukos when my father was still a shareholder of this company – really does not have any bearing whatsoever on his image.  He is an ordinary zek [prisoner].

A. SAMSONOVA – What was the financial background to these dividend payouts?  Was it that they were placed in international accounts so that the Russian authorities were not able to seize them?  How was this arranged?

P. KHODORKOVSKY – This is public information.  The payments were carried out over the course of several years, right on up to the first attack on the company in 2003.  Naturally my father did have accounts both in Russia and abroad.

A. SAMSONOVA – When one of Khodorkovsky’s accounts was discovered, it was truly scandalous. It seemed like here there is a prisoner, but he has an international account.  Now you are saying that this is a normal practice. Then tell everything that you know about those accounts that the family has.

P. KHODORKOVSKY – To be honest, I do not understand why this shocks people so much.  I consider that there is nothing shameful in the wealth and the money that were earned by my father. That he still has some relatively small funds in comparison with the incredible sum that was mentioned in 2003 – 15 bln. dollars based on the company’s market capitalisation – this is in no way comparable to the wealth of modern-day oligarchs.

A. SAMSONOVA – This is simply a question, with whom should Khodorkovsky be compared today?  With those who have not been locked up and who continued to enrich themselves with privatisations, taking advantage of what was going on in the country after perestroika, or should he be compared with the political prisoners in the Bolotnaya case, who never had this kind of money?  And if we compare him with ordinary political prisoners, of whom there are many in Russia today, then, of course, they are not in the kind of position your father is in and this is where these questions come from.

P. KHODORKOVSKY – Their positions are factually identical – both were and are behind bars in ordinary Russian prisons.  My father has gone through Matrosskaya Tishina, he was transferred through Vladimir Central, he spent time in a prison colony in Krasnokamensk [Siberia], and is now in a prison colony in Karelia [Finnish Border].  There are no specially improved conditions for him.  This is why the ordeals that the prisoners of Bolotnaya are going through today, are the same ones as those my father went through.  Of course the fact that my father still has some money left allows him to defend himself. But in reality, in a situation where the state is giving direct instructions to the court as to the verdict in my father’s case, the question of who is spending what on the defence is irrelevant. My father ended up behind bars as a result of this interference and has spent 10 years there already.

A. SAMSONOVA – But you have been engaging in a public defence since 2006 after all.

P. KHODORKOVSKY – Yes, I began to speak publicly in defence of my father in 2006.

A. SAMSONOVA – Seven years of effort and without any result.  Seven years out of the window.

P. KHODORKOVSKY – I don’t think so.  First of all, the biggest achievement as it seems to me is that my father has not been forgotten.  To keep up interest in the fate of a person who is far away – first on the border with China and now in someplace called Karelia that people have never heard of, especially abroad – is not a simple matter over the course of 10 years.  And I am very grateful to those people who continue to keep track of my father’s fate, both in Russia and abroad.  That is why I do not consider that this time was wasted.

A. SAMSONOVA – And the talks with foreign politicians and the attempts to get foreigners involved in order to influence the situation in Russia, were they successful even once?  Have you had even one experience of a successful working relationship with international politicians.

P. KHODORKOVSKY – Well some of the talks did have a positive result, and some not much of one.  Among the positive results, I can include the fact that the subject of my father has been raised numerous times by Mrs. Merkel.  When president Obama won the elections for the first time, he raised the subject of Khodorkovsky before his first meeting in Russia.  I can count these events as successes.  Of course, this demonstrated to the government of Russia that foreign politicians are not indifferent to Khodorkovsky’s fate and to the problems with the judicial system in Russia in general.

A. SAMSONOVA – But for me this is very sad news; because this signifies that one can get to Merkel, to Obama, to any court and hire the best lawyers, but nothing is going to change.  This means that the people who do not have these resources at their disposal in essence do not have any more or any less of a chance than your father; that everything is pointless.

P. KHODORKOVSKY – I do not think I would be so pessimistic.  Because the most important thing that has happened over the past 10 years is that people in Russia have finally begun to feel themselves citizens of their own country and not just passive observers.  Yes, this is happening very slowly.  But at the end of the day something is going to change in Russia only when the citizens of Russia start to demand that their state obeys the law, that law enforcement works normally and that the judicial system works normally too.  The fact that people have more of a chance to bring attention to their case or less, as you have correctly noted, did not help and did not hinder in the short-term perspective.

A. SAMSONOVA – Ten years is not short-term, unfortunately.

P. KHODORKOVSKY – I was referring to the people who were arrested in May last year.

A. SAMSONOVA – And how many people are working for Khodorkovsky now?

P. KHODORKOVSKY – We have got several people who are working here in Europe, and another several people who are working for my institute in America.  But once again, for comparison, I can say that this is several dozen people – if we count the employees of my institute – but if one looks at the team that was working on and is continuing to work on the Yukos case, then this is more than three hundred – investigators, prosecutors and so forth.  So the forces are unequal even here.

A. SAMSONOVA – Tell me about the Institute.

P. KHODORKOVSKY – My organisation is a non-commercial organisation, it is called the Institute of Modern Russia.  We are engaged in a task that is simple but at the same time difficult to achieve today – advancing democratic values.

A. SAMSONOVA – Are you managing to advance them?

P. KHODORKOVSKY – Yes, we have several projects that I consider to be very successful.  One of our longest-lasting projects is the publication of analysis on our website.  We publish in two languages at once, English and Russian.  Now we have begun a new project which offers translated news articles from sources in Russia that would otherwise be inaccessible in the English language.

A. SAMSONOVA – InoSMI [the name of the newswire] only the other way around?

P. KHODORKOVSKY – Yes.  And this allows journalists who are interested in what is happening in Russia, but who are working abroad, to get access to information quickly.  We hope that in such a manner more news stories taking place in Russia will be shown in the foreign press.

A. SAMSONOVA – Is this what you are going to be doing for the rest of your life?

P. KHODORKOVSKY – Good question.  I never planned to be doing this.  I had always planned to be involved in business. I went to a university that is famous for preparing entrepreneurs and I was involved in business.  I have my own small company that is engaged in monitoring electric power.  My company is called Enertiv.  I ended up having to get involved with the Institute because a need for this appeared.  First of all, those people with whom I interacted, starting in 2006, were saying to me that what I was telling them was indeed interesting, but that there was not enough information; and, of course, I understood that globally my father would not be released from jail until the situation in Russia started to change at the root.

A. SAMSONOVA – When I Googled you, the fifth link from the top that it gave was an article about how Pavel Khodorkovsky is working at Gusinsky’s company.  What is that all about?

P. KHODORKOVSKY – This was one of my fist jobs in the USA.  After finishing university I moved to New York, and for the first several years I did indeed work for the New Media Internet company, which is one of the companies that Gusinsky owns.

A. SAMSONOVA – How did it turn out that way?  There are many employers in New York…. did you search specifically for this?

P. KHODORKOVSKY – I had three job offers.  A company that was engaged in three-dimensional design software in Massachusetts, but this was in a very small town and I did not want to move there.  A PR firm that was operating in New York, but it offered a relatively small salary and poor prospects for growth.  And Gusinsky’s company, which offered me an interesting job in my specialisation.  After all I had finished with a specialisation – information systems management.  I worked in the data centre for 4 years.

A. SAMSONOVA – It seems to me, after all, you were not entirely free to choose what you would do   and what to give interviews about.  Personally, what is your greater interest, politics in Russia or internet technologies, media and design?

P. KHODORKOVSKY – Technologies are far more interesting to me.  My mindset is that of a technologist, and I always wanted to be involved in the production of products that you can hold and touch.  This is what was always interesting to me.  Life does not always turn out the way you want it and I consider it very important for myself to help my father as much as I possibly can.

A. SAMSONOVA – When he gets out, will you stop being involved in politics in Russia?

P. KHODORKOVSKY – I do not have plans to be involved in politics in Russia in principle.  I do not see myself as a political figure.

A. SAMSONOVA – At any rate, with regard to the money, there are many people in London who are doing different kinds of political scholarship or political analysis and who dream of getting Pavel Khodorkovsky’s money.  Who are they all and what do you pay them for?

P. KHODORKOVSKY – First of all, I am not paying them.  I do indeed get many of the most outlandish proposals on my mail address, literally every week.  But we have a concrete mission, we have our own programmes at the institute on which we spend money, and it is extremely rare that we work with someone else.  For example, we are working together with some non-commercial organisations, such as Freedom House…, but we do not have political projects with individual people in London.

A. SAMSONOVA – Let me ask it another way.  The money that has been paid out as dividends from Yukos to your father or your family, has it ever been used for the support of political organisations in Russia?

P. KHODORKOVSKY – No, there never was such a thing.  As of today the Institute is spending its money on projects being implemented primarily in the USA.  We have several cultural projects, exhibitions mostly, that we conduct in Europe.  But the majority of our events and our projects are based in the USA.

A. SAMSONOVA – What have you got in life besides Russian politics and the Institute of Modern Russia?

P. KHODORKOVSKY – I have my family.  Moreover, if anything, they are  not “besides”, but more likely “first and foremost”.

A. SAMSONOVA – You have a Russian wife?

P. KHODORKOVSKY – Yes, I have a Russian wife, her name is Olesya.  True, we did meet in New York.  I have a daughter; she is going to be 4 years old soon.

A. SAMSONOVA – And what does Olesya think about your family history?  After all, she must surely have known the surname Khodorkovsky before she met you.

P. KHODORKOVSKY – Olesya was working in the financial sector and Russian politics were very alien to her.  So she only found out my father’s story after we met.  Olesya is very concerned about the future of our family because she knows that so many negative things have happened over the past 10 years.  Of course she hopes that my father and my family will finally see each other as soon as possible, that she will be able to meet my father, whom she has never seen.

A. SAMSONOVA – Do you think he has changed in 10 years?

P. KHODORKOVSKY – Yes, of course he has changed.  He has changed as a human being, he has become much more emotional, he has begun to relate to people differently.

A. SAMSONOVA – They say that there could be a third case.  And you are being asked about this all the time. How can one understand in advance whether there is going to be a third case or not, what are you gearing yourself up for, what signals are you getting?

P. KHODORKOVSKY – Let us start from the premise that anything at all can happen in Russia at any time.  But as of today, speculation with regard to a third case seem to me to be baseless.  My father’s former partner, his friend Platon Lebedev, is supposed to be released on May 2nd 2014.  I find it hard to imagine how a new case will be started in the few months that are left.  And it seems to me that the Russian government’s priorities as of today are somewhere else entirely.  They are interested first and foremost in making sure that the Olympic Games proceed successfully, and they are hardly likely to do something to harm the country’s image before the Olympiad is held.

A. SAMSONOVA – I can understand how much you have to be involved in Russian politics, which have caught up with you and have robbed you of the right to choose what to do with your own life based on  your own free will.  To what extent does it seem to you that your father has got tired of Russian history and wants to live a simple life in a provincial town by the sea after his release or does he really want to be involved in politics in earnest?

P. KHODORKOVSKY – I do not know about sleepy provincial towns by the sea, my father and I have not made such concrete plans for the future with regard to where he is going to live.  But my task is going to consist of convincing him to leave Russia and move to the USA with me.  I consider that it will be dangerous for him to be in Russia after his release.  Father does not intend to be involved in politics.  But of course he is not going to be sitting around doing nothing and he wants to continue the activity that he started with Open Russia.

A. SAMSONOVA – You ask why it is so important in Russia how much money Khodorkovsky has left, and why I keep on badgering you with this question.  But it really is an either-or situation here.  Khodorkovsky has an image of a saintly person, a martyr who went to jail for the sake of an idea.  And if this is indeed so, if this is how it should be in your opinion, then there need to be answers to all the questions that people ask, even the bad ones.  And I asked on twitter what I should ask Pavel Khodorkovsky, and they replied to me:  does your father not feel ashamed about the murder of the mayor, for example.  This is a horrible question.  But if this is how we do this, then it too needs to be asked.

P. KHODORKOVSKY – Everything is quite simple with regard to the murder allegations.  There were never any charges filed against my father.  I regard as totally ludicrous all the speculation about how, because he was at the company, he had to have known about every possible thing that was happening.  With regard to the speculation that the Yukos company bears the responsibility for the murder of the mayor of Nefteyugansk…. I say that when Yukos was establishing its branch in Nefteyugansk, it was first and foremost inconvenient for the criminal elements that were operating in the city at that time.  To try to tie the murder of the city’s mayor to my father you know, even the Russian prosecutor’s office is not pursuing this.  This is why I consider that to discuss this question from the position of whether or not my father is ashamed of this makes no sense whatsoever!

A. SAMSONOVA – You know, I love asking politicians and public figures whether they might want to voluntarily declare all the assets they have in their family.  Now you, would you want to?  Just to enhance trust?

P. KHODORKOVSKY – The fact is that all the information with regard to my father’s assets is openly accessible as it is.

A. SAMSONOVA – Hold on, you said yourself that you do not know how much he has spent on lawyers.

P. KHODORKOVSKY – I indeed do not know how much he has spent on lawyers, and I do not intend to waste my time counting the amount of dividends that went to my father.  But if necessary, this can be done.  Yukos publicly published its reports for all those years when dividends were paid out.  The quantity of shares that belonged to my father is also known.

A. SAMSONOVA –Are you going to continue to conduct a campaign for the release of other political prisoners in Russia after they let your father out?

P. KHODORKOVSKY – Yes.  For me this will be an obvious and necessary process, because my father’s case has unfortunately spurred a wave of wild charges, such as the ones that the people charged in the Bolotnaya case are experiencing themselves today.

A. SAMSONOVA – In what way?

P. KHODORKOVSKY – Because the example of Khodorkovsky was used to demonstrate to the courts how they are supposed to act – that if there are people who are inconvenient for the authorities, then you do not need to be guided by the law to prosecute them.  You need to listen to what you are being told from above.  This is why this practice has unfortunately started to be applied all over Russia as of today.  Judges in high-profile cases do not read the law, but wait for a command from above.

A. SAMSONOVA – After his release, is Khodorkovsky going to attempt to bring to justice those judges and investigators who violated the law by issuing unjust charges against him?

P. KHODORKOVSKY – No.  This is precisely what my father does not intend to do.

A. SAMSONOVA – Not revenge, but lustration [barring officials and collaborators of a former regime from positions of public influence].

P. KHODORKOVSKY – This is a task for a new government, if such a thing ever happens in Russia.

A. SAMSONOVA – Pavel Khodorkovsky for Echo Moskvy.

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