Russian Prisoner of Conscience Platon Lebedev Released

January 24, 2014
Mikhail Khodorkovsky (left) and Platon Lebedev (right) speak to each other in court.

Today or tomorrow, Platon Lebedev will be released [note – there are reports he was released Friday afternoon, after this article was published — Ed.]. It was decided by the Supreme Court as the result of hearings on the two “Yukos” cases. A month ago Platon Lebedev spoke about his upcoming release in an interview with The New Times.

How are you, Platon Leonidovich?

I’m all right. I have only four months left. Actually, according to my calculations, I was supposed to be free before the New Year. They added four months by mistake (in the presidium of the Moscow City Court, when they were reviewing the verdict under the second Yukos case to reduce the term based on the amendments to the Criminal Code, they miscalculated the term, said Lebedev – The New Times), and together with my attorneys we will appeal against this error in the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation.

Today Masha Alekhina was released. They are about to release Nadia Tolokonnikova [members of Pussy Riot — Ed.].

Great! Most importantly, it has started. I am very happy for those who were released under the “Bolotnaya Case”, and, of course, for Mikhail.

And what about you, Platon Leonidovich?

What about me? This year I celebrated my birthday behind bars for the 11th time, so for me four months is not a big deal. Soon my term can be compared with that of the Great Patriotic War, multiplied by three.

How do you feel about the way Mikhail Khodorkovsky was released ?

In Russia, everything is possible: they don’t need any laws to lock you up, or release you.

You and your attorneys filed complaints to the Supreme Court. What do you expect from the Supreme Court?

Now the Supreme Court has four of my complaints. The first one concerns the decisions of the Strasbourg Court: the Supreme Court should initiate review proceedings. The second one is the complaint by the Human Rights Ombudsman, Vladimir Lukin, concerning satisfying the 17 billion ruble claim by me and Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s (in the first Yukos case, the Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin filed a motion with the Supreme Court to overturn the decision to recover the said amount from the former executives of Yukos. Lukin’s is still pending. – The New Times).

The third complaint is to appeal the decision to deny the parole at my request, and finally, the fourth complaint is the supervisory appeal to the second sentence in our case imposed by Khamovniki court.

Do you expect that the Supreme Court will consider your complaint by April 2014, when your term ends, and you are to be released?

If the Supreme Court gets on this case, I might be released before that date.

How do you feel?

This is what I keep saying for all these 11 years: “Do not even hope!” Everything is fine with me.


Platon Lebedev’s sentence was reduced to 10 years, 6 months and 22 days, i.e. down to what he actually served. For Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was released on pardon December 20, 2013, the prison term was reduced to 10 years and 7 months.

The Presidium of the Court refused to send sentences for Khodorkovsky and Lebedev for review.

Based on the hearings the General Prosecutor’s Office stated that the sentence of the former head of “Yukos” Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the former head of the MFO “Menatep” Platon Lebedev in criminal cases against “Yukos,” may be adjusted due to the liberalization of the Russian legislation, and proposed to mitigate the punishment for an incident that occurred in 1995, under the statute of limitations. The Deputy Prosecutor General Nikolai Vinnichenko proposed to classify the actions by Khodorkovsky and Lebedev under Article 159.4 (“business-related fraud”). This article was made part of the Criminal Code in 2012, and provides for up to five years in prison.

However, the Prosecutor General’s Office opposed the reversal of tax penalties against Khodorkovsky and Lebedev under the first “Yukos case”. Earlier, the European Court of Human Rights found this injunction to be in violation of the Convention on Human Rights due to the fact that the Russian law did not allow to recover taxes from the management of the company. The amount of tax collected was more than 17 billion rubles.

The European Court of Human Rights also found other violations vis-à-vis the defendants: violation of client-lawyer privilege, improper discovery and examination of the evidence by the trial court, violation of the right to protect property, violation by Russian authorities of their obligations not to interfere with the ECHR procedure, violation of privacy rights, as well as excessive security measures in the courtroom and violation of the right to freedom and personal inviolability in respect of Platon Lebedev.

Defendants’ attorneys, Genrikh Padva, Vadim Klyuvgant, Vladimir Krasnov, and Alexei Miroshnichenko insisted on reversal of sentences in the two cases. “No one has ever proved the presence in any of their (the defendants – The New Times) actions of any elements of a crime, and their prosecution is a reprisal by nature, under the disguise of criminal justice procedures,” Vadim Klyuvgant, an attorney for Mikhail Khodorkovsky, said in his statement in court. “The reasons of the giant scope and long duration of the case are not its real complexity and volume, but a giant scale of reprisals, abuse and manipulations to cover it up.”

The decision to revise the two Yukos cases was made by the Chairman of the Supreme Court Vyacheslav Lebedev, on December 25, 2013, a few days after Mikhail Khodorkovsky was pardoned. Combining sentences took place in order to streamline the procedure and to comply with reasonable terms of criminal proceedings.