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Medvedev's warm words leave Khodorkovsky in the cold

Medvedev announced before a whole room of journalists and national television on Thursday that Mikhail Khodorkovsky, ex-Yukos head and long-term resident of a Siberian penal colony, is no danger.

Khodorkovsky and his co-defendant Platon Lebedev were sent down for 14 years in a second trial for embezzling Yukos's oil wealth, having served their first sentence from 2003. The Yukos case has been widely seen as a politically motivated trial, something the Kremlin has always denied.

Yet warm words of encouragement from the president of the country have not sparked much enthusiasm among Khodorkovsky supporters. And Amnesty International's decision that the jailed-tycoon does not merit the status of a prisoner of conscience implies that he deserves what he gets.

Peripheral president

"I'm afraid that it just doesn't depend on Medvedev at all. The fact that he said [that Khodorkovsky is no danger] is very pleasing and of course it is true, because Khodorkovsky has never been dangerous, even before he went to jail. But I'm really not sure that Medvedev could do anything to affect the case," Yury Schmidt, Khodorkovsky lawyer, told The Moscow News.

Amnesty damnation

And Amnesty International has not improved things. They again refused to give him the status of a political prisoner. The human rights watchdog explained that prisoners of conscience were those who were in prison for unfounded reasons, Ekho Moskvy reported.

The implications of this bleak statement are unlikely to fill the Yukos camp with optimism.

"Amnesty International wrote many good things about the political backdrop to the case and about human rights violations around the case. But I think that this organisation, especially after it won its Nobel prize, has become quite bureaucratic.

Human rights activists should take more radical positions. It's a shame that they didn't have the courage to recognise Khodorkovsky's status, they said they would think about it. Clearly seven and a half year hasn't been enough," Schmidt said by telephone.

Khodorkovsy and Lebedev are due to be released in 2017, although a third trial has been rumored.

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