The voice of De Anza since 1967.

La Voz News

The voice of De Anza since 1967.

La Voz News

The voice of De Anza since 1967.

La Voz News

Here and There: Who is your friend?

A personal account and inquisition into recent Russian politics

I understand the American style of communication. It is first and foremost about mutual enriching coupled with cultural heritages of different groups. However, true diversity is not limited to these matters. It involves much less pleasant things – grim realities in countries of dictatorships or criminal regimes.

Unfortunately, sometimes “intercultural” communication of American political or business elites reminds me of a Russian proverb roughly translated as, “Tell me who is your friend, and I would tell you who you are.”

I came to the U.S. from Ukraine, a former Soviet Republic. I worked as a political columnist there for 15 years and continue this job in the United States. In recent news, BP has struck a deal with the Russian oil company Sibneft. I am frustrated, as doing business with such “enterprises” is not only embarrassing for the United States, but undermines the moral lead of the world. It is destructive to the most fundamental Western value: the rule of law. 

It is important to acknowledge that in Russia, rule of law is observed somewhat “selectively.” To explain, the so-called “Khodorkovsky trial” can be examined. Sibneft, a state-private company run by one of the closest friends of Russian president Vladimir Putin, played the main role against the former most successful Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

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Putin compared his trial to Bernie Madoff’s, saying in a phone Q&A on December 3, that “a thief must be in jail.” However, these trials show a rather big rift  between American rule of law and Russia’s “selective” enforcement of law. 

While Madoff’s guilt was proven at a trial with substantial evidences, the Khodorkovsky trial was fabricated from the beginning. 

The Khodorkovsky case is not common knowledge to De Anza students. When asked, most had on idea what a “fabricated trial” was. 

To them, I explained that lawyers had their say, and Khodorkovsky had his. However, what prosecutors said not support the accusations. Nevertheless, the judge ruled on Khodorokovsky’s guilt and sentenced him to 14 years in prison.  

So, why was the most successful Russian oil tycoon led to bakruptcy and this fabricated trial?

Before 2003, Khodorkovsky was the richest businessman in Russia and his oil corporation, Yukos, was the most successful enterprise. In April of that year, Khodorkovsky was reported to be negotiating with ExxonMobil and ChevoronTexaco, offering them a large stake in Yukos. Additonally, he openly criticized Putin’s government for widespread corruption. This ended with his arrest in November 2003. He was accused of fraud; moreover, his successful company was forced by Putin into bankruptcy.  

Khodorkovsky’s forced bankruptcy was a blow to many investors all over the Western world. His kangaroo trial awoke protests in Russia and abroad, resulting in U.S. senators calling to blacklist Russia’s top officials who staged the trial.

The case showcases Russia’s widespread corruption through fabricated trial. I can name no less than a few dozens of such trials; however, I have reason to believe there are more. A lack of media attention continues to fule the political reprisals.

Hearing about such deals as BP and Rosneft, I sometimes regret the fact that American politicians decided to do business with Russia. In fact, such attitudes from Americans (and their officials) are a corruptive and toxic catalyst for the destructions of  American rule of law.  They become a hindrance to justice.  

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