Solidarity at the Sakharov Center with Khodorkovsky and all political prisoners in Russia

posted 30 Oct 2013, 13:08 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 30 Oct 2013, 13:17 ]
28 October 2013 

Vera Vasilyeva, October 28, 2013

October 25th 2013 marked 10 years since Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former CEO of Yukos, was arrested at Tolmachevo airport in Novosibirsk. To mark this date, international Readings were held in the Andrei Sakharov Museum and Public Center in Moscow as a show of solidarity with Khodorkovsky, Platon Lebedev, and all other political prisoners in Russia. 

These Readings are part of a project sponsored by the Berlin International Literature Festival. Public figures, actors, journalists, and other people who are not indifferent came to the exhibition hall of the Sakharov Center where Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s letters to the writers Lyudmila Ulitskaya and Grigory Chkhartishvili, the prisoners of the ‘Bolotnaya case’, and the imprisoned members of the Pussy Riot punk group Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina were read. Some of the last words spoken by the former Yukos CEO in the Khamovnichesky Court and his articles written behind bars and published in The New Times, The New York Times, FT Magazine and other publications were also read.

The texts featured Khodorkovsky’s reflections about the fate of his generation, the question of
responsibility, the emergence of civil society in Russia, and his stories of prison life.

Some of the speakers added a few of their own words while reading Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s texts.

“I thought he would be released after one day, or maybe after two or three days. Then we counted the weeks, and then we started to count the number of months that he was in prison. Now we are counting the number of years. I don’t want to think about how we will start to count the number of decades, although, as you can see, a decade has already passed by. I can’t speak too long about this without crying. I can say only one thing and this is that he is truly one of the best...perhaps the best person of our times,” said Irina Yasina, leader of the Regional Journalism Club, sharing her memories and feelings with other attendees.

Former Yukos employee Vladimir Pereverzin, who spent seven years and two months in prison, also chose to read out part of Khodorkovsky’s last words in court:

“Those people who started this shameful case, Biryukov, Karimov and the others, at that time contemptuously called us ‘businessmen’ and considered us to be trash who were ready to do anything in order to defend our prosperity and avoid prison. Years have gone by and who has proven themselves to be trash now? Who for the sake of money and out of cowardice has lied, tortured and taken hostages in plain view of the authorities? This is what they called ‘a matter for government’! I am ashamed of my government.”

To which Vladimir Pereverzin added “These people, Biryukov and Karimov, received orders ‘For Merit to the Fatherland’—I am ashamed of such a fatherland.”

Writer Lev Rubinshtein, journalists Ekaterina Gordeyeva and Olga Pispanen, and actress Oksana Mysina were among the participants at the readings. Some of the speeches were made via video.

The event in the Sakharov Center lasted for about three hours.