To ease investment jitters, Medvedev allies float Khordorkovsky release
Signals from the Kremlin suggest that Russian President Medvedev may be weighing clemency for long-jailed former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, another sign of a deepening split with Prime Minister Putin.
After serving a seven-year sentence, Russian former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky is on his way back to a Siberian penal colony following an additional sentence of six years by a Moscow court last month. Yet signals from the Kremlin Wednesday suggest that President Dmitry Medvedev might be mulling the risks of freeing him.Skip to next paragraph
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One sign is from an interview with the Kremlin's top economic adviser, Arkady Dvorkovich, who told the online newspaper Gazeta.ru that the controversial second sentence meted out against the politically disobedient ex-billionaire could chill Russia's troubled investment climate.
"I think a large part of the international community will have serious questions, and the risk assessment of working in Russia will increase," Mr. Dvorkovich is quoted as saying.
Analysts point out that Dvorkovich is a staunchly loyal Medvedev man, who is unlikely to go off script – especially on an issue that has explosive implications for the open struggle between Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin over who is to be the Kremlin presidential nominee in elections that are just over a year away.
Another sign Wednesday is a column by Gleb Pavlovsky, a longtime Kremlin adviser, posted on the state-run English-language TV network Russia Today's website that calls the Khodorkovsky verdict "excessively cruel" and openly doubts that the court was acting independently.
"These signs reveal an uneasiness among Russia's top elite about the Khodorkovsky case," says Sergei Strokan, a columnist with the liberal Moscow daily newspaper Kommersant. "There is a feeling that this case is getting too big, and it's not going to go away unless, maybe, something about it gets changed."
After coming to power a decade ago, Mr. Putin singled out Khodorkovsky for prosecution after he, almost alone among Russia's top business leaders, refused to stop funding political opposition and civil society groups.