Khodorkovsky's lawyers said the comments in a Dec. 16 television appearance were designed to exert influence in the case, which has accentuated a sense of personal rivalry between Putin and a business mogul who was once Russia's richest man.
"What we are hearing leaves us no doubt that pressure was put on the court — that the court was not free when adopting this decision," lead defense lawyer Vadim Klyuvgant said during a brief break in Danilkin's rushed verdict reading.
Medvedev signaled his disapproval of Putin's comments, saying in a nationally televised interview on Friday that no official had the right to comment before a verdict was reached. Putin said later he was referring to Khodorkovsky's first conviction.Meanwhile, the Guardian has posted video from inside and outside the courtroom. The contrast between a smiling Khodorkovsky and the angry protesters is striking.
The Guardian also reports that Khodorkovsky's guilty verdict is a sign that political opponents of Prime Minister Putin continue to pay a high price:
There was never going to be any other result. In modern-day Russia, challenging Putin is like standing in front of a tank. Either get out of the way or expect – sooner or later – to be flattened.
Whatever else he is, Putin is implacable, relentless and unpitying when dealing with perceived enemies. In this, he follows a long-established Russian leadership tradition, and the public seems to like it, affording him approval ratings of 70% or above.
But the lengths (and depths) to which the former KGB spy appears ready to go have fuelled claims, such as those publicised by WikiLeaks, that Russia has become a corrupt "mafia state" under his tutelage.I don't believe President Obama has yet to weigh in on today's verdict; considering the time difference between the East coast and Hawaii that is not surprising. But it will be important to read what the president says especially because of his high-profile "reset" attempts at the beginning of his term.
ORIGINAL POST: To the surprise of no one, a Russian court has found Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner guilty of embezzlement. As Reuters notes: