Investigative Committee “Exposé”

Source: (info), 02/04/12

· Human rights defenders

Human rights defenders have commented on the statement by the Investigative Committee that Mikhail Khodorkovsky financed civil society organisations whose representatives were participants in the Working Group of the Presidential Human Rights Council examining the second Yukos case.

“Within the framework of the so-called ‘main Yukos case’, documents were obtained that the civil society organization Open Russia, founded by Yukos, at the beginning of the 2000s provided funding, in particular, to the human rights organisation Memorial, the Moscow Helsinki Group, the Public Verdict Foundation and others.” And according to the Investigative Committee, representatives of these organisations took part in the independent review of the second Yukos case.

This was first reported by Interfax, citing unnamed sources. The radio station Echo of Moscow has since reported that an official representative of the Investigative Committee, Vladimir Markin, has confirmed this statement.

According to this source, in 2003- 2004 Open Russia donated a total of more than fifty million roubles to the accounts of these civil society organisations, including those whose members were on the Working Group examining the Yukos case. Echo of Moscow reports that the Working Group concluded that the second Yukos trial was unlawful and recommended that the President initiate a review of the sentence passed by it. has cited Oleg Orlov, a member of the board of Memorial, as saying that Open Russia financed one of Memorial’s projects relating to essay competitions for school children. Orlov says, “Those people who ‘expose’ rights activists in this way come to a very strange conclusion. This same logic is followed by those who say that since rights defenders receive funds from Western donors, they are, therefore, Russia’s fifth column.”

“Those who are involved in ‘exposures’ of this kind see the growth of civil activism, they see the emergence of a sound and truly independent expert review of the case, in spite of the fact that the Council is presidential in status,” Orlov believes. “They see that despite the barriers and obstacles, civil society has developed, it is robust and can influence society. Hence their fear.”

The head of the Moscow Helsinki Group Ludmila Alekseeva explained to that her organisation had never received money from “Khodorkovsky’s organisations.” The head of the Moscow Helsinki Group continued: “These people have no shame, they invent God knows what, very aware that it is pointless to bring a libel case against them - our ‘independent courts’ guarantee them impunity. And this pandemonium is not only in relation to civil organizations, this applies to everything that does not comply with Putin’s regime.”

“With regard to the review conducted by the Working Group of the Presidential Council on Human Rights of the Yukos case, three members of the Council were on the Working Group: Tamara Morshchakova, Mara Polyakova and Valentin Gefter, as secretary of the group,” Alekseeva explained. “The experts themselves who were invited by the Presidential Council were from outside. These were lawyers, economists, financial specialists, oil industry specialists, and so on. There were nine people altogether, from Russia and abroad. Not one of them was a member of the Council but each was a specialist in their field.”

Natalia Taubina, director of the Public Verdict Foundation, dismissed the notion that representatives of her organisation were on the expert Working Group reviewing the Yukos case: “The Foundation was not represented on the Working Group of the Presidential Council and none of its representatives were allowed to participate.”

“Here it is possible to talk about deliberate misrepresentation of the facts,” Natalya Taubina told “We were established in 2004, and indeed in 2004-2005 Open Russia supported our activities, something that allowed us to implement a range of human rights initiatives. Through these initiatives we were able to assist hundreds of people who had been victims of abuses committed by law enforcement personnel. In addition, this support helped expand the network of similar organizations across the country, and we are proud of this work,” she stressed.

As Echo of Moscow reports, Irina Yasina, a member of the board of Open Russia and an economist, commenting on the situation said it was no secret that Open Russia at the beginning of the 2000s financed human rights groups. Yasina also said that independent Western jurists were among those who endorsed the independent review of the second Yukos case.

Interfax reports that Yury Schmidt, Khodorkovsky’s lawyer, also refuted the claims by the Investigative Committee. He told Interfax: “This is absolute stupidity. All the experts, both from Russia and abroad, were bono fide independent people.”

Mikhail Fedotov, head of the Presidential Council on Human Rights, also refuted this. Interfax quoted him as saying: “It seems to me that trying to discredit the results of such independent legal expertise in this way, to put it mildly, is a rather futile endeavour.”

In November 2011 the Presidential Human Rights Council concluded its review of the second case against Khodorkovsky and Lebedev. On 27 December the head of the Council passed the results to the President.

The Council conducted an independent review of case at the request of the President. The only materials examined in the course of the review were the official text of the verdict of the court in the Khodorkovsky case, and the official transcript of the trial proceedings.

Rights in Russia,
6 Apr 2012, 02:17