Hail to the Thief: The New York Times Defends Mikhail Khodorkovsky - by Stephen Lendman
On October 25, 2003, Khodorkovsky (below called MK) was arrested for tax evasion and corruption, dating from when the Soviet Union dissolved and state privatizations followed. "Behind every great fortune lies a great crime," explained Honore de Balzac. Billionaire Russian oligarchs, like MK, illegitimately amassed great fortunes, avoiding prosecution during Yeltsin's tenure (1991 - 1999).
Beginning in 1991, various socio-economic measures were implemented without public discussion or parliamentary approval. Most important were Yeltsin's personal directives, creating a billionaire aristocracy handed the economy's most important, profitable sectors, free of charge - literally a license to loot.
Changes began slowly under Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, though not easily. The rot is so widespread and deep. Oligarchs like Boris Berezovsky fled to London, Moscow2, taking with them great fortunes. Others staying behind wish they'd after Medvedev announced during an October 2008 Council to Combat Corruption session that:
"Corruption in our nation has not simply become wide-scale. It has become a common, everyday phenomenon which characterizes the very life of our society. We are not simply talking about commonplace bribery. We are talking about a severe illness which is corroding the economy and corrupting all society."
As a result, prosecutions followed. Some 2009 examples against bureaucrats included:
-- Nevelsk Mayor Vladimir Pak's suspension and charge of embezzling 56 million rubles ($1.5 million);
-- two Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) Main Directorate officers detained on suspicion of accepting over $100,000 in bribes; and
-- MVD Lt. Col. Dmitry Luzgin charged with extorting $1 million from Russian Real Estate House management.
According to MVD figures, annual Russian corruption ranges from $20 - $40 billion. In 2006, Alexander Buksman, deputy general prosecutor first deputy, estimated annual corruption at $240 billion, involving business and bureaucrats. However, a combination of legal loopholes and close private-public alliances lets most offenses go unpunished.
Major Media Defend MK
On October 29, (four days after his arrest), a New York Times editorial headlined, "Putin's Old-Style KGB Tactics," saying:
"After laboring to project the image of a rational, law-abiding statesman, President Vladimir Putin of Russia has reverted to the vengeful violence of his old employer....(Arresting MK) was a serious mistake," citing market plunges "on the fear that the Kremlin was showing its true authoritarian colors."
An earlier August 13, 2003 Times editorial headlined, "Moscow Machinations," saying:
"....nobody knows for sure whether President Vladimir Putin is personally behind the sudden crackdown on the giant oil company Yukos....What is clear is that the Kremlin's strong-arm tactics have little to do with battling economic crime and a lot to do with power and the coming elections in Russia."
An October 28 Washington Post editorial claimed "no one is safe from arbitrary prosecution, or from the political whims of the Kremlin, and the US State Department suggested that MK's arrest involved "selective prosecution," adding that "We are concerned about the rule of law, about maintaining the basic freedom of Russians."