Putin Accused of Purging Opponents

February 24, 2008 11:03 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Critics believe Russian President Vladimir Putin is using Soviet-style purges to gain control of lucrative private business assets and to stifle dissent.

30-Second Summary

Vladimir Putin has unleashed harsh punitive measures reminiscent of the Soviet era in order to enrich state coffers, eliminate business opponents and curtail free speech, according to international observers and a report in the Wall Street Journal.

“Russia resembles a market-oriented dictatorship,” says the human rights organization Freedom House.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, former head of the Russian oil giant Yukos, told the Wall Street Journal he was convicted of tax evasion to allow Putin to carve up his assets, which were transferred to the state energy firm Gazpro. Khodorkovsky is in a prison camp in Siberia.

The Journal likened Putin’s tactics against Khodorkovsky and 41 other former Yukos employees to a Soviet-style purge, targeting competitors of state-owned businesses.

Scientist Igor Reshetin, charged with selling state secrets, is serving an 11-year prison term because his company’s lucrative technology contracts won him enemies in the state defense industry, according to the newspaper Novaya Gazeta.

Putin, a former KGB insider, also has given authorities a freer hand than did his predecessors in a campaign against scholars and journalists with foreign ties, the International Herald Tribune reports.

The consulting firm Oxford Analytica says such cases demonstrate the Kremlin’s tight control over Russian courts, Forbes Magazine reported.

But Forbes also says the legal system has improved since Soviet times, and most Russians supported Khodorkovsky’s conviction because he is considered part of an elite group reaping unfair profits from communism’s demise.

Headline Links: ‘Khodorkovsky Condemns Putin Rule’

Opinion & Analysis: Russia’s ‘political-legal system’

Reference: Soviet-style prisons

Related Links: Civil liberties in Russia


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