Svenska Dagbladet: “The time for apathy in Russia has passed”

May 8, 2012

Stig Fredrikson of the Swedish newspaper “Svenska Dagbladet,” conducted an interview with Mikhail Khodorkovsky via mail.  He writes:

I received a letter from prison. The author is one of the most famous political prisoners in the world, Mikhail Khodorkovsky. 10 years ago he was the richest man in Russia with an estimated wealth of no less than 15 billion dollars. Today he is in prison, convicted twice for economic crimes. He will not be freed earlier than 2016. But the crime for which he is, in reality, serving his sentence is for becoming an eternal enemy of Vladimir Putin, the former, and now new, President of Russia. While Putin is in power, Khodorkovsky will be in prison. His crime was daring to challenge Putin’s political power.

Dmitry Medvedev was under great pressure to free Khodorkovsky as one of his last actions as President, the office taken over by Putin on Sunday. However, Medvedev refused because Khodorkovsky did not personally request pardon and accept guilt. In reality, Medvedev would never go against Putin who once said of Khodorkovsky, the “thief should be in prison”.

However today’s average Russian prison is not like “The Gulag Archipelago” of Solzhenitsyn. The prisoner of the Colony 7, in the Karelian town of Segezha, is able to communicate with the outside world. Khodorkovsky answered a series of questions which I had sent to the Colony.

Khodorkovsky’s letter states that he does not think protests and demonstrations alone would bring about an end to Putin’s regime. However the protests, which have gained momentum in Russia over the past 6 months, and which were particularly directed against dishonest elections and bad government, are “a sign of the end of a post-revolutionary period of apathy” , Khodorkovsky is referring to the conditions in Russia over the past 10 years, after the turbulent 1990s.

“Civil society is waking up and demanding competence from the authorities. If competence doesn’t come (and it will not), then the regime will have to end. Methods, that bring about the end of the regime can vary”, writes Khodorkovsky, but he does not elaborate on this thought.

Khodorkovsky, in his own words, does not have any political ambitions. “Power does not attract me, especially executive power”. Nevertheless, he has high hopes for the younger and more politically conscious generation of Russians. “I would like to see a democratic Russia”, writes the prisoner form Segezha.

Stig Fredrikson, “Svenska Dagbladet”, 8 may 2012