August 28, 2014

The Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, former chairman of Yukos, once Russia’s biggest oil company, is speaking out against the toll that the Kremlin’s undeclared war on Ukraine is taking on Russians. Khodorkovsky, a Putin foe who spent nearly ten years in prison on politically motivated tax charges, published a statement on his website today entitled “We could and can stop this.” A general strike, he says, could do so.

His declaration reads, in part:

 “We are fighting Ukraine – for real. We are sending soldiers and equipment.

“The Ukrainians are fighting well but are retreating, for this is an unequal fight.

“And all this time our authorities have been lying through their teeth, just like they did about Afghanistan back in the ’80s; and about Chechnya in the ’90s. Today, they are lying about Ukraine. And while this goes on, we are burying those on both sides who, until recently, were our co-workers, friends and family. We are not killing one another because we want to, but because an aging regime always needs blood.

“That is what we all know. That is the very reason why the authorities are lying. So why then do we pretend to believe them? Is it because we are afraid? Afraid to think for ourselves? But is it not more frightening to lose one’s children, to shoot at one’s brothers? And afterwards, how will we live with ourselves?

“Know this– we could and we can stop what is happening. It would be enough to take to the streets, to go on strike. The authorities would cower in an instant because they are cowardly. But no, instead, we would rather pretend that we believe; and weep at funerals.

“Yet I for one, can no longer remain silent, and I will not be silent.”

Khodorkovsky’s statement was retweeted nearly three hundred times within hours of its publication.

Khodorkovsky was jailed by the Kremlin for nearly 10 years on politically motivated charges of tax evasion. His company was disbanded and its assets sold off. Khodorkovsky was released from prison in December 2013 after being pardoned by President Vladimir Putin on the basis of "the principles of humanity."

Since his release, Khodorkovsky has increasingly become vocal about political change in Russia. He visited Kyiv several times during last winter’s pro-democracy Maidan movement, telling Ukrainians that a  different Russia exists from that reflected in Kremlin policy.

Irena Chalupa covers Ukraine and Eastern Europe for the Atlantic Council.

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