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Russian MPs split on Yukos sentence

Duma AdjourningMoscow, 30 December: State Duma deputies differ on the sentence for ex-Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskiy and former Menatep head Platon Lebedev. (passage omiteed)

Deputy chairman of the State Duma Security Committee Gennadiy Gudkov (A Just Russia) has admitted he was disappointed by the sentence. "I am disappointed by the court's decision, I do not believe in the court's objectivity or independence," he told RIA Novosti. Gudkov said he had hoped that Khodorkovskiy would be given a token sentence, which would not affect the total time that the former Yukos head is already serving. "It's clear why this decision was made on the New Year's eve - to avoid discussions," the MP said. He said he had hoped for greater leniency in criminal punishments. He also noted that "the Khodorkovskiy case is damaging the image of the Russian Federation, and this should have been taken into account". In addition, according to Gudkov, the whole situation is unfavourable, because obviously people will start feeling sorry for Khodorkovskiy. "A big mistake has been made," he concluded.

Deputy secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation MP Sergey Obukhov said that the Communists have a whole list of oligarchs who should be brought to justice because "the acquisition of property in the 90s and privatization were illegal". Speaking about the Khodorkovskiy case, Obukhov said that all oligarchs had been treated like this, then it would have been possible to speak of justice. "But in this case, we can only speculate about some kind of political expediency," the deputy told RIA Novosti. Obukhov said with regret that there is no way to bring to book oligarchs for the riches they have accumulated.

First Deputy Chairman of the Duma committee on constitutional legislation and state-building Aleksandr Moskalets (One Russia) believes that no MP has sufficient information to objectively comment on the court's decision. "According to the law on the status of deputies, a deputy cannot interfere in the work of judicial and investigative bodies. In view of this, since we do not know the facts, we cannot pass judgment," Moskalets told RIA Novosti. "I always think it's bad taste to discuss what you do not know. I don't think any deputy knows well this criminal case. How can they judge?" Moskalets said. He believes the deputies should not interfere or evaluate the work of the court. "This is a matter for the court and only the court, and if somebody disagrees with something, there is a higher court," Moskalets said.

According to a member of the Duma Committee on Legislation and a permanent member of the Russian delegation to PACE, Dmitriy Vyatkin, the court was under pressure from people who had absolved Khodorkovskiy and Lebedev before the verdict was announced. "I do no like at all that well in advance, long before the verdict was announced, media and public figures and others, who had nothing to do with the case, began highlighting things in advance, declaring the defendants innocent, and so on. And this opinion was presented as the only true one," Vyatkin told RIA Novosti. From his point of view, this was "a form of pressure on the court". According to Vyatkin, if attempts are made to use public opinion and a public debate is allowed , the views of all interested parties must be made public. "There can be no competitive process if the court is put under enormous pressure by the media, activists and people from abroad. The position of many foreign public figures presents interference in the internal affairs of our country," the deputy said. He also said that pressure was put on the international level, and Khodorkovskiy and Lebedev were used "as instruments of pressure". "They (foreign public figures) are absolutely indifferent to the state of the judicial and law-enforcement systems in our country. The defendants are used by the West to exert political pressure on Russia. They (Khodorkovskiy and Lebedev) are pawns in the big game between the West and Russia," Vyatkin said.

(Economic crimes should not be punished by such long prison sentences as was the one brought against Khodorkovskiy and Lebedev, member of the State Duma Committee on Budget and Taxes Oksana Dmitriyeva (A Just Russia) told radio station Ekho Moskvy on 30 December, the Ekho Moskvy news agency reported on the same day. "I'm not a lawyer, but in my view economic crimes should be punished by confiscation of property of the accused and their families," she said.)


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