Newsletters / Mikhail Khodorkovsky Stands Up for Russian Political Prisoners

Open Russia’s second online forum entitled “Political prisoners 2.0: are there any legal ways to disagree?” took place on October 29th , the eve of the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repressions in Russia.  Among the forum participants were Mikhail Khodorkovsky, David Satter, Vladimir Ashurkov, Sergey Guriyev, Aleksandr Cherkasov, Sergey Nikitin, and Vladimir Akimenkov.

During the Forum, Khodorkovsky announced that Open Russia would work together with Alexey Navalny to provide awards of 100,000 rubles to 50 victims of political persecution in the Russian courts, to be distributed in 2015.

“After all, prison, first and foremost, involves expenses on necessities and food; it means temporary, albeit frequently very lengthy, loss of the breadwinner,” Khodorkovsky said. “Throughout decades of repressions, an opinion has been formed that it is a normal pastime for a Russian to spend time in jail. The more we talk about the people who are imprisoned arbitrarily, the more the public opinion changes.”

Speech at the Oslo Freedom Forum

On October 22nd Mikhail Khodorkovsky was a featured speaker at the Oslo Freedom Forum, where he delivered a widely praised and moving speech on the ongoing injustices faced by political prisoners in Russia. A global community of human rights defenders gather annually at the OFF to tell their stories, brainstorm ideas, launch initiatives, and share an unforgettable experience of solidarity in challenging arbitrary power around the world.

During his speech, Khodorkovsky implored the audience to action, and asked them never to forget those who have sacrificed their freedom for their beliefs: “What can we do for the political prisoners of Russia?  What we can do is tell the world about what kind of values the people who came out on Bolotnaya Square on May 6 stood for.   (…) It seems to me that the key words here are freedom and love for the Motherland; a sense of responsibility for our country’s future.”

Khodorkovsky also participated in a breakfast panel organised by Civita in Oslo, where he appeared alongside Chinese dissident Yang Jianli and the Iranian-born author, Marina Nemat, both of whom spent years as political prisoners.

Watch a video of Khodorkovsky’s full speech to the Oslo Freedom Forum here. Watch a video of the Civita breakfast panel here.

Speech at Forum 2000 in Prague

Earlier in October, Khodorkovsky visited Prague and took part in annual Forum 2000 conference.

In his opening speech to the forum he noted: “The political activists of today are in essence the gist of the Russian democracy, their struggle deserves support and appreciation on behalf of the class whose interests they defend so courageously.”

Highlights of the speech included Khodorkovsky’s firm rejection of the notion that Russia’s isolation exists beyond the Kremlin walls, and his argument that the best way to achieve understanding and dialogue between Russia and the West would be for the western democracies to approach the relationship with Russia from position of moral values.

During the same visit to the Czech Republic, Khodorkovsky also participated in an interview and Q&A at the Vaclav Havel Library conducted by journalist and Václav Havel Library Board of Trustees Chairman Jan Macháček.

Read more about Khodorkovsky’s opening address to Forum 2000 here. Watch a video of the Václav Havel Library interview here.

Freedom House Awards

On October 1, Khodorkovsky also delivered a keynote speech at annual Freedom House Awards Dinner in Washington DC.

He drew attention to the importance of European values for today’s Russia: “A return to the European values that lie at the foundation of the Euro-Atlantic civilization, – a mental and political return – is the starting point for the new political course that could help Russia work its way out of the historical snare it is now in. Russia has just two ways it can go – forward into the post-industrial era together with Europe, or back into the Middle Ages , and after that into outright non-existence.”

Read more about the Freedom House event here.