Programme Paper

Project: Russia and Eurasia Programme

Associate Fellow, Russia and Eurasia Programme
Mikhail Khodorkovsky, former oil tycoon, speaks during a Bloomberg interview at the Hotel Adlon in Berlin, Germany on 23 December 2013. Photo by Bartek Sadowski/Bloomberg via Getty Images.Mikhail Khodorkovsky, former oil tycoon, speaks during a Bloomberg interview at the Hotel Adlon in Berlin, Germany on 23 December 2013. Photo by Bartek Sadowski/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

Summary points:

  • Mikhail Khodorkovsky's release in December 2013 indicated President Putin's confidence that Khodorkovsky no longer represented a threat. Nevertheless, the manner in which Putin made the announcement suggested that there remained powerful forces in the regime opposed to Khodorkovsky's release. A pardon, unlike amnesty, does not require the State Duma's approval.  
     
  • Khodorkovsky's political stature has been somewhat diminished by the circumstances attending his release, allowing President Putin to pose as the moral victor and supreme arbiter. Khodorkovsky cannot be a hero for Russia's neo-liberal opposition, and would be an uncomfortable interlocutor for those in the West who would have liked him to become an instrument in their struggle against Putin.
     
  • Khodorkovsky's thinking along the lines of 'democratic statism' could provide a liberating formula for the developmental impasse in which Russia finds itself.