What has turned the checkered year into a definitely bad one was the “guilty-as-charged” verdict in the court case against Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev.
Apparently, the whole point of this “show trial” was not to mobilize public opinion against corrupt “oligarchs,” as in 2003-2005, but to establish beyond doubt that no matter how flimsy the evidence or noisy the liberal opposition, the political decision on crushing the unrepentant “enemies” would be enforced. A catchphrase among investors is that “Russia is out of fashion,” and this attitude reflects more than uncertainty about the margin of profit in the election year (The New Times, December 27). In fact, the elections have become a political show of little relevance because Putin’s choice to reclaim the presidency or to allow Medvedev to keep the job is now reduced to mere formality that has little if any import for the “modernization” of the system of governance. The unreasonably harsh punishment of unbreakable Khodorkovsky and Lebedev shows that this system has grown so thoroughly corrupt that by trying to prove its power it actually destroys its credibility (Vedomosti, December 30). Every available political resource is mobilized to secure the self-reproduction of Putin’s regime by manipulating elections better than in disagreeable Belarus, but in seeking to prolong the life-cycle measured by the price of oil, the desperate duumvirate merely shortens the chance for a peaceful resolution of a maturing crisis.