An Oligarch’s Arrest

São Paulo O Estado de São Paulo (conservative), Nov. 7: The recent imprisonment of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the richest businessman in Russia, for alleged financial fraud in the billions indicates to some people a swerve to the left. Far from it....Khodorkovsky, an oil magnate, is a direct challenger to Putin’s political ambitions.

Shanghai Xinmin Weekly (independent newsmagazine), Oct. 31: Although Putin is young as the leader of a big power, he knows the political law to the letter, and his tough policy on financial magnates such as Yukos’ CEO Khodorkovsky is not aimed at wiping out capitalism in Russia but warns Russian capitalists to behave themselves.
—Fang Ning

Budapest Magyar Hirlap (independent), Nov. 5: Khodorkovsky is now the resident of a Moscow jail. After his arrest, he asked for books on Russian history to read. Last century’s 17th year may well have awakened a sense of déjà vu for him. And not just because it was October. The fate of the Russian businessman might also be in doubt. ...The origins of his fortune are more than doubtful. The parallels with 1917 are frightening, but are they true?

Seoul The Korea Herald (independent), Nov. 6: Polls have suggested that Putin is winning public praise for this unprecedented Draconian act. Such popularity is easily understood, since the majority of Russians feel they are being robbed by a class of oligarchs who made their wealth during the roller-coaster days of former President Boris Yeltsin.

Copenhagen Politiken (moderate), Nov. 1: However shady the privatization that created the oligarchy at the beginning of the 1990s, it does not correct Russia’s vast inequalities to allow the FSB (Federal Security Service) take over control of the economy. That could make Putin’s semi-authoritarian regime openly authoritarian. The deep fall in shares and the increasing flight of capital from Russia in the wake of the Yukos affair warns of a catastrophe for the economy.

Sofia Monitor (nationalist), Nov. 5: At first sight, the current clash in Russia looks like a showdown between powerful people—the president vs. a bunch of oligarchs. In fact, this is the beginning of an all-out power struggle that will determine the political and economic future of Russia. Essentially, the argument is whether the oligarchy will control the Russian state, or the nationalistic team in Kremlin will control the oligarchs.
—Chavdar Kisselinchev

Milan Il Giornale (conservative), Nov. 4: All the implications of this event are clear, especially for the person be-hind the scenes who organized everything successfully: Vladimir Putin. Thanks to the offensive started by friendly public prosecutors, the Russian prime minister eliminates one direct competitor for both the Kremlin and the Duma.
—Marcello Foa

Zurich Neue Zürcher Zeitung (conservative), Nov. 1: Khodorkovsky recently decided to take part in politics, in a financial way at least. He made no secret of the fact that he had heavily supported two liberal parties, Yabloko and the SPS, in the run-up to the December parliamentary elections.

Athens Ta Nea (liberal), Oct. 31: The political now threatening Putin’s victory in the presidential elections in March 2004, which until now looked certain. Khodorkovsky’s imprisonment and the indictments against the rich might bring unpleasant results for the president of Russia, as businessmen and the opposition might join forces in support of a common presidential candidate—oddly enough, someone like Khodorkovsky.
—Roussos Branas

Istanbul Hürriyet (independent), Nov. 5: After the head of Russia’s biggest oil company, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was arrested, a Russian-born American citizen, Simon Kukes, succeeded him as the new CEO....Foreign observers in Moscow interpreted this new appointment as Yukos’ seeking an international guarantee. If in the future ...the new CEO is arrested, the U.S. administration will have the right to ask Moscow in a harsh tone: What are you doing to our citizen?

Madrid El País (liberal), Nov. 1: It is not a democrat against an oligarch, but a struggle among people who achieved power or got richer in a rather questionable way. It is the Kremlin against the new, great so-called capitalists. The Russian political system is at stake as well as the future of a—so far—precarious democracy.

Paris Le Monde (liberal), Nov. 1: The Yukos affair is probably the last episode in the reconstitution of totalitarian power in Russia under President Vladimir Putin. Was it meant to intimidate the opposition a few weeks before the Dec. 7 elections? Most probably. Khodorkovsky was supporting the formation of liberal parties opposed to Putin’s majority. So the Yukos affair can be attributed to the rise in power of old- guard cronies in Putin’s entourage. They are committed to torpedoing freedom of the press,...eroding political liberties, pursuing the war in Chechnya and, in the name of stabilizing the country, ruling it with ever less democracy.