Khodorkovsky: “Russia is a sick state”


Nearly every day for the past 20 months, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man, has been led handcuffed into a small courtroom here to defend himself against charges that could keep him in jail through 2017.

“Much more than two people’s fates lie in your hands,” Khodorkovsky told the judge, referring to himself and his former business partner Platon Lebedev. “Right here and right now, the fate of every citizen of our country is being decided.”

“I am ashamed for my country,” Khodorkovsky told the court, in a rousing 20-minute speech that ended with his supporters — and many Russian journalists — in the room erupting into applause.

“A state that destroys its best companies, which are ready to become global champions — a country that holds its own citizens in contempt, trusting only the bureaucracy and the security services — this is a sick state,” he said.

He decried President Dmitry Medvedev’s rhetoric on modernizing the economy. “Who is going to modernize the economy? Prosecutors? Policemen? Spies?” he asked. “We already tried such a modernization. It did not work,” he said, referring to the Soviet era.

“This is not about me and Platon,” Khodorkovsky said. “It is about hope for the citizens of Russia — hope that tomorrow courts will protect their rights. It is hard for me to live in prison — I do not want to die here,” he said. “But my beliefs are worth dying for.”

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