Monday, November 8, 2010

Obama's silence on a jailed Russian dissident

Washington Post
November 8, 2010

Russia's tradition of autocracy has always been matched by that of the suffering, ascetic dissident who speaks truth to power. In the modern era there was Solzhenitsyn. There were Sharansky and Sakharov. And now, somewhat improbably, comes Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Unlike his recent predecessors, Khodorkovsky is not a great writer or a human rights activist. He is an entrepreneur who played by the rough rules of Russia's immediate post-Soviet era. "I am not at all an ideal man," he says. And yet, thanks to Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, he has become his country's latest moral champion.

He did so last Tuesday from the glass cage inside a Moscow courtroom where he and a co-defendant, Platon Lebedev, have been on trial since April. Their prosecution is a blatant setup and a grand piece of political theater, designed to demonstrate the regime's power to crush its opponents. Its conclusion is already settled: Sometime by Dec. 15, the judge will sentence Khodorkovsky and Lebedev to as many as 14 years in prison, on top of the eight they have already served.