The usual smears against President Putin. Personalizing all attacks on the Russian state onto Putin is characteristic of Western media propaganda. Demonizing the leader is a central feature of regime change campaigns.
Anyone who is anti the current (elected) government in Russia is inevitably described as an “anti-Putin critic”. The fact that they criticize the Kremlin seems to automatically elevate them to the status of Sainthood. Any critical questioning of the critic’s own past is therefore not required.
Using characteristic techniques of Western media propaganda theÂ GuardianÂ casts aspersions. Putin “suddenly” pardonedÂ KhodorkovskyÂ in 2003. As if there was something suspicious about it. (The Russian side explained that it was connected toÂ Khodorkovsky’s mother’s illness). We are also told that the current re-opened investigation intoÂ KhodorkovskyÂ “seems” to be connected to the original 2003 fraud case.Â In fact not “seems”. There is nothing mysterious and secretive about it as this text suggests. It is quite straightforward; the searches are connected with the 2003 fraud case.  In another piece on the same story, theÂ GuardianÂ tells its readers that Khodorkovsky’s offices in Russia were raided by “armed Russian police”. According to the Wikipedia article on the Russian police they routinely carry arms.  This appears to be another dramatic flourish intended to fuel the narrative – liberals being intimidated by the Russian state mafia.
We are told that the current charges against Khodorkovsky are being brought by the Russian Investigative Committee which “reports directly to the Russian President”. As always with the Western liberal critique of Russia anything which is different in the way that Russia organises itself is not accepted as just that, different, but is portrayed as something sinister. Russia is a Presidential Republic. It is not really surprising that the country’s main investigative body reports to the President.
The piece is entirely devoted to the comments by KhodorkovskyÂ and those close to him. Since theÂ GuardianÂ omits the background it is worth pointing out thatÂ KhodorkovskyÂ was sentenced by a Russian court for fraud and subsequently with embezzlement and money laundering. KhodorkovskyÂ had been a Communist youth party member in the Soviet Union. In the period immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union he acquired the rights to multiple oil fields in Siberia. This was during a period when there was little central government regulation – and it was easy for those with contacts and/or access to capital to acquire significant state assets. During this period Western oil firms signed lucrative contracts to exploit Russian resources on favorable terms. Under Putin’s Presidency a new policy was developed which aimed to control these excesses and secure Russian national interests. KhodorkovskyÂ did not play ball.  Arguably his arrest and detention were therefore ‘political’. But the context is that of an elected President pursuing a policy of national interest. This is the side of the story that the Western propagandists don’t tell.
Western liberals – and a few Russians -Â want a regime change in Russia. In this piece Khodorkovsky calls for a ‘revolution’. They talk the language of “human rights”, “democracy” and “open government”. In reality they want money.
3.Â Russia. Robert Service. 1997 Penguin. p550