Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The German connections of Khodorkovsky case

Putin's decision to pardon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once Russia's richest man, was obviously a symbolic and propagandistic move, aimed to improve the country's image, before Sochi winter games. Together with Khodorkovsky, who was anyway schedule to be freed this August, the doors of the prison opened too for the Pussy Riots girls. 
On the other hand, Khodorkovsky's cause was constantly supported by German politicians and business circles, many of them travelling to Kremlin often in order to request his release. Before being imprisoned, in 2003, the Russian businessman had a last press conference at Hotel Adlon, in Berlin, where he disclosed the corruption and illegalities of Putin's clique. The German diplomacy regularly brought the issue into the agenda of the bilateral discussions. Khodorkovsky's mother was treated for cancer in Germany.
Upon his arrival to Berlin, Khodorkovsky once very close to the nomenklatura of the 'reformed' Russia, was welcomed at the airport by Hans Dietrich Genscher, who had a great contribution to writing the closing chapter of communism. On September 1989, he convinced the Czech authorities to help the refugees from the then DDR. Together with the Hungarian politician Gyula Horn, to whose funerals he participated the last June, and other reformist Hungarian politicians he built the support for the destruction of the Wall. Genscher is a professional politician, with a long governmental career. Between 1969 and 1974 he was Interior minister under Willy Brandt and minister of Foreign Affaris between 1974-1992, under Helmut Schmidt and Helmut Kohl.
The trip of Khodorkovsky to Berlin was prepared by the German diplomacy, but the transportation was made with the airplane provided by the Swiss-German businessman Ulrich Bettermann, the owner of the concern OBO. Bettermann and Genscher went together to the funerals of Horn. Bettermann has also high-end political connections, being one of the founders of the Davos forum and being often a hosted international statesmen such as Henry Kissinger or Mikhail Gorbachev.
Sometimes, the political connections are intricate and may change over time. The old friendships built in time are not easy to destroy. Khodorkovsky was allowed one-year stay in Germany and received a three-month visa for Switzerland, where two of his children study. Shortly after the release, he announced that will dedicate time and energy to fight on behalf of the political prisoners in Russia. His son is already involved in human rights projects in the US. 

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