Mikhail Khodorkovsky: Final Statement
Mikhail Khodorkovsky has told a packed Moscow courtroom that Russia’s fate depends on the verdict in his trial. In his final statement before an expected verdict on December 15, Khodorkovsky said he was prepared to die in prison rather than admit that he was guilty.
November 02, 2010
Khamovnichesky Court, Moscow; November 2, 2010
Honorable Court! Dear Guests!
Today is yet another opportunity for me to take a look back. I remember October 2003. My last day as a free man. A few days or weeks after my arrest, I was informed that President [Vladimir] Putin had decided that I would have to, as I was told, "eat prison slop" for eight years. At the time, this was hard to believe. Now seven years have passed. Seven years is a pretty long time, especially when one is in prison. We have all had time to reevaluate and rethink many things.
Judging by the essence of the prosecutors’ speeches (and the essence is basically this: give them 14 years and just spit on all the previous court decisions), during these years I have become more frightening for them and the law has become less respected. After all, the first time they at least worried about preemptively changing court decisions that stood in their way, but now they have decided, "Who cares?" Especially since now it isn’t a matter of changing two decisions like last time, but rather 60.
I don’t want to return to the legal aspects of the case now. Everyone who wants to understand something about this case has already understood everything. I don’t think that anyone seriously expects an admission of guilt from me. I don’t think anyone today would believe me if I said that I stole all the oil from my own company. But likewise, no one will believe that a Moscow court could reach a not-guilty verdict in a Yukos case.
Nonetheless, I’d like to speak about hope. Hope, of course, is the most important thing in life.
I remember at the end of the 1980s, when I was 25 years old. Our country was filled with the hope of freedom, hope that we could attain happiness for ourselves and our children. In part, these hopes were realized and in part they were not. Most likely, our entire generation, including myself, bears responsibility for the fact that these hopes were not fully realized, and not for everyone.
I remember the end of the last decade, when I was 35. We had built the best oil company in Russia. We were restoring sports facilities and housing, building roads, resurveying and developing new fields, beginning to develop reserves in the Far East, developing new technologies. In short, we did everything that Rosneft is now so proud of since it swallowed up Yukos. Thanks to a significant increase in oil production, and in part as a result of our successes, the country was able to take advantage of favorable oil-price trends. We all began to hope that the period of instability and troubles was behind us and that in this new stability that had been achieved by enormous labors and many victims, we could calmly build a new life and a great country.
Alas, this hope, too, was not realized. Stability became something like stagnation, society froze. Although hope is still alive. It is even alive here, in the chambers of the Khamovnichesky Court, when I am approaching the age of 50.
When a new president came to office, and it has been already more than two years since that happened, many of my countrymen also experienced new hope. Hope that Russia would become a modern country with a developed civil society, a society free from bureaucratic license, from corruption, from injustice and lawlessness. It is obvious that this cannot happen by itself, in the space of one day. But to pretend that we are developing while actually standing still or moving backward -- even under the guise of noble conservatism -- is now impossible and is simply dangerous for the country.
It is impossible to accept that people who call themselves patriots so desperately oppose any change that restricts their access to corrupt and arbitrary power. It is enough to remember the fate of the amendments to Article 108 of the Criminal Procedural Code on the arrest of businesspeople. Or the asset declarations of government officials. Because it is the sabotage of reforms that is depriving our country of its future.
This is not patriotism -- it is hypocrisy.
I am ashamed to watch as some people who I respected in the past try to justify bureaucratic arbitrariness and lawlessness. They are trading their reputations for a comfortable life inside the present system, for privileges and handouts. Happily, not everyone is like this and the ranks of others are growing.
I am proud that among the thousands of Yukos employees, over the course of seven years of persecution, no one was found who would give false testimony, who would sell their soul and their conscience. Dozens of people were threatened, were torn away from their loved ones, thrown into dungeons. Several were tortured, which became known during the course of this trial. They lost their health and years of life, but people preserved what was most important -- their human dignity.
Those who started this shameful case -- Biryukov, Karimov, and others -- then disdainfully called us "merchants" and regarded us as brutes ready to defend their wealth and escape prison at any cost. Years went by, and who turned out to be brutes? Who lied, tortured, took hostages for the sake of money and out of cowardice toward their superiors? And they called this a "state matter." I am ashamed of my government!
Your honor, I think we all fully understand that the significance of our trial goes far beyond my fate and that of Platon Lebedev, even beyond the fate of all the innocents who suffered during the sweeping punishment meted out to Yukos, those whom I was unable to defend but whom I have not forgotten. I think of them every day.
Let’s ask ourselves: What do entrepreneurs, high-ranking industrial managers, or simply educated, creative people think today when they look at our trial and its, I assume, absolutely predictable result? The obvious conclusion of any rational person is frightening in its simplicity. The security bureaucracy can do anything. There is no right to private property. Those who clash with the system have no rights whatsoever. Even though they are enshrined in law, rights are not defended by courts, because courts are either afraid or part of the system. Can we be surprised that rational people don’t strive for self-fulfillment here in Russia? Who will modernize the economy? The prosecutors? The police? The chekists?
We’ve already tried this kind of modernization. It didn’t work. We were able to make a hydrogen bomb and even a ballistic missile, but we are still unable to manufacture our own quality, modern television; our own inexpensive, competitive, modern car; our own mobile phones; and many more modern products.
On the other hand, we have learned to showcase foreign, outdated models produced in our country, as well as rare advances by our Russian inventors which will be applied -- if they ever do -- only abroad and not in our country.
What happened to last year’s presidential initiatives in the sphere of industrial policies? They have been buried. They represented a real opportunity to end our dependence on raw resources. Why were they buried? Because in order for them to be realized the country needs more than one [Sergei] Korolyov and one [Andrei] Sakharov under the wing of the all-powerful [Lavrenty] Beria and his million troops. The country needs hundred of thousands of Korolyovs and Sakharovs, protected by fair and clear laws, by impartial courts that will allow these laws to live instead of gathering dust on a shelf like the constitution of 1937. Where are these Korolyovs and these Sakharovs today? Have they left? Are they preparing to leave? Have they gone into internal emigration? Or have they hidden among bureaucrats not to be steamrolled by the system?
A country that tolerates a situation where the siloviki bureaucracy holds tens and even hundreds of thousands of talented entrepreneurs, managers, and ordinary people in jail in its own interests, instead of and together with criminals – this is a sick country.
A government that destroys its best companies, which are becoming world champions, a government that is suspicious of its people, that only trusts bureaucrats and special services, is a sick government. Hope is the central cause of reform and transformation. It guarantees success. If hope is suppressed, if it gives way to dull disillusionment, then who and what will be able to pull our Russia out of this current quagmire?
I will not be exaggerating if I say that millions of eyes throughout all of Russia and throughout the whole world are watching for the outcome of this trial.
They are watching with the hope that Russia will after all become a country of freedom and of the law, where the law will be above bureaucratic officials. Where supporting opposition parties will cease being a cause for reprisals. Where the special services will protect the people and the law and not the bureaucracy from the people and the law. Where human rights will no longer depend on the mood of the tsar -- good or evil. Where, on the contrary, the power will truly be dependent on the citizens and the court – only on law and God. Call this conscience, if you prefer.
I personally believe this will happen.
I am far from an idealist, but I am a person with ideals. And like anyone, it is difficult for me to live in prison, and I don’t want to die here. But if I have to, I will not hesitate. The things I believe in are worth dying for. I think I have proven this. And you opponents? What do you believe in? That the bosses are always right? Do you believe in money? In the impunity of "the system"?
Your honor! In your hands is something much greater than the fate of two people. Here and now the fate of every citizen of our country will be decided. Citizens, who in the streets of Moscow, St. Petersburg, Tomsk, and other cities and villages hope not to become the prey of a lawless police force. Those who run their own businesses, have built their own houses, have achieved success, and hope that these things are left to their children and not to raiders in police uniforms. And finally, those who want to honestly work for honest money and not expect that any minute they will be fired based on an arbitrary law from a corrupt boss.
This is not about me and Platon [Lebedev]. At any rate, it is not only about us. It is about hope for many citizens of Russia. About hope that tomorrow the court will be able to protect their rights, if yet some other bureaucrats or officials get it into their head to brazenly and demonstratively violate these rights.
Everyone knows that there are people -- and I have named them during the course of this trial -- who want to keep us in prison, and keep us there forever. And, well, generally they don’t hide this. They publicly remind [the country] about the existence of the never-ending "Yukos trial."
Why don’t they hide this fact? Because they want to prove that they are above the law, that they always achieve the things they dream up. For right now, they have achieved the opposite. They have made us -- completely ordinary people -- into symbols of the fight against tyranny. This has happened. This is not to our credit but to theirs. And moreover, they must have a guilty verdict so as not to become the scapegoat.
I want to hope that the court, with honesty, will withstand their psychological pressure. And there will be pressure, and we all know how and through whom it will come.
I want an independent judiciary to become a reality and the norm in my country. I want the phrase from the Soviet times about “the most just court in the world” to stop sounding just as ironic today as it did back then. I want us not to leave the dangerous symbols of a totalitarian system as an inheritance for our children and grandchildren.
Everybody understands that your verdict in this case – whatever it will be – is going to become part of the history of Russia. Furthermore, it is going to form it for the future generation. All the names – those of the prosecutors and of the judges – will remain in history, just like they have remained in history after the infamous Soviet trials.
Your honor, I can imagine perfectly well that this must not be very easy at all for you – perhaps even frightening – and I wish you courage!
On that I would like to finish. Thank you very much.