Photo by CI
As Russia Blog has previously reported, the former richest man in Russia, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, now resides in Siberia, in a prison colony close to the Chinese border. Khodorkovsky's wife and mother visited him just a few weeks ago. At that time, Khodorkovsky had been punished by solitary confinement twice; once for leaving his workspace without permission to find a mechanic to fix his sewing machine, and the second time for having papers from the Ministry of Justice. These documents describe the proper procedures for imprisoning a Russian citizen. The prison administration decided Khodorkovsky should not have these documents and sent him to solitary confinement again.
When Khodorkovsky was settling into his new residence he had a smile on his face. Khodorkovsky thought that he would be doing cushy research and earn his PhD while serving out his sentence. All these dreams have been ruthlessly crushed. All the mail Khodorkovsky has received and the letters he tried to send out have been confiscated and destroyed by the prison administration. The warden had decided that the contents of his papers were "inappropriate". Also, research work is not allowed at this particular penal colony. Sewing and making cardboard boxes are the only working options. So far Khodorkovsky has stuck with sewing, but he isn't any good at it, so he is thinking about carton box-making as his next career.
Russian prisoners are supposed to wake up at 6:30 am, eat breakfast, work 8 am until 5 pm, go through security procedures, have dinner and then enjoy the "free time" between 8 pm and 10 pm. The inmates get paid about $10 a month. To save electricity, the lights are usually dimmed so it's hard to read, and the only well-lit rooms are in the common areas, where the prisoners can sometimes watch TV. These common rooms are noisy and the few available TV sets are used by the prisoners much younger than Khodorkovsky; they prefer action movies and TV series over news and cultural programming.
Yesterday Khodorkovsky was caught drinking tea in the common area with another inmate. They were warned that this area was not designated "for usage of food products", and later they were punished with...seven days of solitary confinement. Having only two solitary confinement terms on your record makes early release or parole impossible. Khodorkovsky's now had three. Seven days is the maximum legal solitary confinement one can receive in Russian prisons.
Two days ago Khodorkovsky's lawyer Natalia Terehova visited him in the prison. Her law license was seized and she was harassed by the guards. The head of the prison, Aleksand Evstratov, apologized to her and retuned her legal credentials. For such an act of kindness, today Evstratov was fired from his job.
Because of the Siberian location, draconian prison rules and the prison administration's arbitrary behavior, Khodorkovsky is cut off from civilization, his lawyers and family. He didn't play by the rules of paying off the government and not selling hard assets to foreigners, so today he is locked away in miserable conditions with no hope for relief anytime soon.
Other oligarchs are happy that Khodorkovsky is in jail -- they shared their assets with the Kremlin and learned the lesson to avoid Khodorkovsky's fate. The Kremlin is happy with Khodorkovsky being in jail, because the oil fields still belong to Mother Russia instead of American or Indian multinationals. And common Russian people either hate Khodorkovsky and are happy for his sufferings, because they know where his money came from, or they don't really care, because they are busy just surviving.
Based on the article by Gazeta.Ru