Khodorkovsky, Our "Son Of A Bitch"

What should be done with murderous Russian oligarchs in the West

Entrenched in London, former Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky gave a series of extensive program political interviews dedicated to the "promo" of his recently published book "How Do You Slay a Dragon: A Manual for Start-Up Revolutionaries". The main message of the interviews is to promote the idea of organising a new civil war in Russia, with some manic cruelty and a desire to kill political opponents and make ordinary people suffer.

The bloodthirstiness and brutality of the "oppositional Russian figure" are not surprising if you get acquainted with his background and some details of his criminal biography. What is truly astonishing is why such a character lives a quiet peaceful life and works in London, while other oligarchs, Khodorkovsky’s much less harmful former accomplices based in London, like Mikhail Fridman, go to the police station for several thousand euros in cash "for a living", taken out in a bag.

It is unclear why the former head of the largest oil company YUKOS, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, decided to become the master of Russia's destinies. In good earnest and in a businesslike manner, he threatens physical death to the representatives of Russian elites, many of whom used to be his colleagues and partners until recently.

"The elite will make a choice between life and death," he says, and lists the names of Russian officials and oligarchs: former head of the Audit Chamber Alexei Kudrin, Chairman of the Bank of Russia Elvira Nabiullina, head of Sberbank German Gref, businessman Alexander Mamut, and many others, mercifully leaving them a chance to switch sides.

Khodorkovsky’s cruelty towards ordinary people is especially astounding. He approves and relishes the death of those mobilised for the military operation in Ukraine and calls for making the physical living conditions of the population in Russia unbearable – "hunger and job loss do not excuse anything, and there is no reason to feel sorry for them". On the contrary, he says "this is exactly how we should act".

This is hardly surprising, though. Rather, it would be worth believing him because Khodorkovsky knows what he is talking about when talking about murders. Based on the proven charges in his home country alone, he is up to his elbows in blood. The victims were both officials who had thwarted his commercial ventures involving great deal of money, and ordinary people. The murders were organised by the security service of the YUKOS oil company.

For example, in 1998, on Khodorkovsky's birthday, mayor of Nefteyugansk Vladimir Petukhov was shot dead after demanding that the oligarch's structures should pay taxes to the city treasury. According to the investigation, a price of USD 150,000 was set on his head. Petukhov and his driver died.

A more gruesome story was the murder of businesswoman Valentina Korneeva. Her firm was unlucky to be renting an office in the heart of Moscow that Khodorkovsky had set his sights on. He wanted to incorporate the building on Pokrovka street into a single complex with the office of his Menatep bank next door. Aleksey Pichugin, head of YUKOS security, tried to extort the premises from Korneeva for ridiculous sums of money and threatened her with physical violence. But he failed to make a deal; in 1998, Korneeva was murdered. Pichugin ended up sentenced to 20 years in prison for the crime. The court also accused Leonid Nevzlin, Khodorkovsky's right-hand man hiding in Israel, of being an accomplice to these and other crimes. The list of these proven ruthless murders could go on and on.

It is not at all clear why people with such a track record of serious criminal offences committed and proven long before the current round of confrontation with Russia should feel so at ease in the UK, and in the West generally. Why use people with such a sordid biography in the confrontation with Moscow? US President Franklin Roosevelt is credited with saying about Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza that although he is "a son of a bitch, he is our son of a bitch". Since then, the US and Western countries have regularly had problems relying on such "sons of a bitch" in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

It is probably not worth falling into the same trap of using dirty, cynical and bloodthirsty people in political struggles. Since a tough approach to Russian oligarchs and their assets in the West has already been adopted, it makes sense to apply it to Khodorkovsky, too, who certainly is one of them.

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