Khodorkovsky Sets Out Vision for 2020
Mikhail Khodorkovsky attacked President Vladimir
Putin's regime in a withering missive from his east Siberian
prison camp that said time was up for the "parasitic"
policies of the current elite and, for the first time, presented
what appeared to be his own manifesto for the presidency.
In his first major article since he was sent
to serve out his sentence in the remote Chita region near the
Chinese border, Khodorkovsky called for Putin to step down "not
a day before nor an hour later" than the legal end of his
term in 2008. He called for a "new responsible elite"
to run the country in place of the bureaucrats who he said currently
sought office only for the opportunity to win assets. Without
a major shift toward more paternalistic, left-wing economic
policies, the country is heading toward collapse, he said.
"This parasitic approach no longer works,"
he wrote in the article, which took up a full page in Kommersant
on Friday. "The country is not capable of being competitive,
and the strategic reserve of endurance and infrastructure built
up from the Soviet era has run out."
Attempts by the Kremlin to justify its authoritarian
rule by encouraging extremist groups would lead to "sorry"
consequences and long-term instability, he said.
The photo that accompanied the article, showing
Khodorkovsky dressed in a black prison uniform with his head
shaved, bent over a wooden desk as he wrote in an exercise book,
was a stark reminder of the former oil tycoon's rapid fall from
power. But the article, titled "Left Turn-2," appeared
to be a clear bid for a place in the political sun and his strongest
personal challenge yet to Putin's regime.
Picking up from his last newspaper article,
in which he called a "left turn" the only way to avoid
a major sociopolitical backlash, Khodorkovsky set out a 12-year
economic plan that called for nearly $1 trillion in investments
from the state and private sector to be plowed into improvements
in infrastructure, education and science.
Under the subheading "Program 2020,"
he called for the return of elections for regional governors
and for the first time openly called for the creation of a parliamentary
republic -- a goal he was believed to be pursuing before his
arrest in October 2003.
Some have seen the legal attack against Khodorkovsky
as a campaign to crush his political ambitions, but the Kremlin
has portrayed the fraud and tax evasion case as a just battle
against a robber baron.
In contrast to the rebellious Decembrist officers
whom Tsar Nicholas I sent into exile and political isolation
in Chita in 1825, Khodorkovsky's supporters hope he may yet
be able to influence the country's political discourse.
"He might be far away near the uranium
mines, but in this modern age it will be much harder to cut
him off," said Irina Khakamada, a liberal politician and
former presidential candidate who backed Khodorkovsky's abortive
bid for a State Duma seat in September.