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Putins Amnesties Show His Concern for Economy

Published: December 23, 2013 (Issue # 1791)

Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskys release from prison after receiving a presidential pardon is without question the biggest event of 2013. And, as befitting a major event, in just a few days it has generated host of myths about the circumstances of the pardon and diametrically opposed reasons for it.

The first myth was created by President Vladimir Putin himself when he said at his press conference on Dec. 19 that Khodorkovsky had petitioned me for clemency, which Putin agreed to sign. Technically this is what happened, but the president didnt mention an important detail uncovered by Kommersant: On Nov. 12, Khodorkovsky was visited in prison by senior secret service officials, who suggested that he write the petition. Thus, the initiative to release Khodorkovsky who was slated to be released next August did not come from the prisoner, but from the Kremlin.

Putin understands that improving Russia's human rights record and easing confrontation with the West is a prerequisite for foreign investment.

There are several versions about what moved Putin to suddenly show mercy, but no one is seriously considering goodwill as a possible motive. After all, he might have done this a long time ago. But instead of showing mercy, Putin publicly alleged the unproven assertion that Khodorkovsky was up to his elbows in blood. As the popular blogger Kirill Shulika aptly noted on LiveJournal: Putin is not capable of mercy. Its not in his character or in his KGB training. All of his decisions about amnesty and clemency are absolutely pragmatic.

Journalist Natalya Gevorkyan wrote in a column on that the clemency story is largely for export. After a series of horrible laws passed by the State Duma, with the events in Ukraine in the background and the Olympics just ahead which a number of world leaders will not attend Russia is looking more and more like the evil empire.

The policies of Putins third term certainly have moved Russia firmly into the group of rogue states. Western powers and even the majority of the members of the Commonwealth of Independent States, which are largely dependent on the Russian economy, have found themselves in conflict with the Kremlin as they try to protect themselves from political and economic pressure. Even the president of poor little Moldova, which signed the Association Agreement with the EU last month, joined the group of Western leaders and announced that he would not attend the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

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Wednesday, Apr. 23

Problems facing the elderly are in the spotlight at Senior Generation 2014, an international forum at LenExpo beginning today that focuses on drawing attention to and providing information about some of societys most vulnerable members. An exhibition combined with a trade fair will help those interested be better equipped to help this demographic.

Thursday, Apr. 24

Learn more about Denmark during the Danish Business Delegations visit to SPIBA this evening starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Danish Culture Institute. Danish Consul general Klaus Sorensen will be in attendance and the buffet following a presentation on Danish companies in Russia will be the perfect opportunity to network with the assembled businessmen.

AmChams Human Resources Committee Meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. this morning in their St. Petersburg office. Check their website for more details.

Friday, Apr. 25

Light Music presents the main events for their Cultural Kitchen project at Loft-Project Etagi today. A B2B event that focuses on Finnish food, arts, travel, music and design, the evening will conclude with a dinner by chef Jyrki Tsutsunen and dancing to music by Aino Venna. The event, which began yesterday with presentations by tourism and cultural institutions, concludes today with a preview of Finlands Flow festival and other musical events. Invitations are available from

Saturday, Apr. 26

At 6 p.m. this evening, stylist Liliana Modigliani offers 50 simple ways to up your style quotient with beauty tips at the Galeria shopping center on Ligovsky Prospekt. The event is part of the final day of the shopping malls Fashion Saturday sales event, this week focusing on top brands located on the ground floor as well as presentation from fashion experts on sprucing up your spring look.

Sunday, Apr. 27

Families shouldnt miss Childhood Planet 2014, the trade fair that started yesterday and concludes today at LenExpo. Not only will goods and services be provided for children and families but the event hopes to promote Russian brands and eco-friendly products using the latest technology available in the childcare industry.

Monday, Apr. 28

The Hotel Indigo will be the site of SPIBAs Acting Skills for HR and Other Managers master class this morning starting at 9 a.m. The event will begin with coffee before moving on to the class itself and conclude with a tour of the recently opened hotel. Confirm attendance by Apr. 24.

Tuesday, Apr. 29

Improve your English at the British Book Centers Interactive English Lesson tonight at 6 p.m. Students at pre-intermediate and intermediate levels are welcome discuss topics that are selected to help learners master the more difficult aspects of English grammar and vocabulary.