Cable by Dazzlepod US Embassy Diplomatic Cables from WikiLeaks Released 251287 Cables (Sep 2, 2012)
SECRET (11322)
Reference ID 09MOSCOW3144 (original text)
OriginEmbassy Moscow
ReleasedAug 30, 2011 01:44
CreatedDec 30, 2009 14:27

DE RUEHMO #3144/01 3641427
R 301427Z DEC 09


E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/29/2019 

REF: A) MOSCOW 603 B) MOSCOW 1226 

Classified By: Pol Minister Counselor Susan Elliott for reason 1.4 (d) 

 1. (C) Summary: The prosecution in the Khodorkovskiy/Lebedev 
trial has finished reading its 188 volumes of evidence, and 
has moved on to questioning witnesses. An observer for the 
International Bar Association stated his belief that the 
trial is being conducted fairly. Related events outside of 
Russia continue to affect the case. A deposition in a U.S. 
court by Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) may show that PWC 
received GOR pressure to disavow its prior Yukos audits; the 
Russian Supreme Court upheld an ECHR ruling that Lebedev's 
initial arrest was illegal; and an arbitration court in the 
Hague found Russia to be bound by the Energy Charter Treaty, 
leaving it open to a large judgment against it and possible 
seizure of GOR assets abroad by Yukos shareholders. Despite 
the case's wide implications, it continues to be a cause 
celebre only for foreigners and a minority of Russians. The 
case also shows the great lengths that the GOR is willing to 
go in order to place a "rule of law" gloss on a politically 
motivated trial. End Summary. 

Recent developments 

 2. (C) The trial of former Yukos chief Mikhail Khodorkovskiy 
and his associate Platon Lebedev continues in Moscow's 
Khaminovsky court, having moved from the reading of the 
prosecution's evidence -- which comprised 188 volumes and 
lasted throughout the summer -- to questioning of the 
prosecution's witnesses. Thus far the prosecution has called 
31 of its 250 witnesses, meaning that the trial will probably 
last until 2012.  XXXXXXXXXXXX told us December 23 that he believes the trial is being 
conducted fairly and that Judge Danilkin has been doing 
everything in his power to make sure that the defense gets a 
fair opportunity to present arguments and challenge the 
prosecution's evidence. 

 3. (C) Among recent developments in the case, the defense has 
been trying to introduce the testimony of a former Price 
Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) auditor, who was deposed in 
California in August by Khodorkovskiy lawyers. The 
prosecution has objected to the introduction of the 
deposition into the case, complaining that they had not 
received sufficient notice; however, according to Teets, the 
Russian Embassy did not inform the head investigator in 
Russia until recently. The PWC deposition goes to the heart 
of Yukos's guilt or innocence; as Yukos's auditor, it signed 
off on Yukos's financial statements from 1994 to 2003, only 
to disavow this prior approval in 2007. As  XXXXXXXXXXXX noted, if 
the audits were properly withdrawn, this will be a "black 
mark" for the defense; if not, it could help the defense, but 
would greatly tarnish PWC's international reputation. Teets 
said that the content of the deposition had not yet been made 
public, but speculated that the auditor had testified that 
PWC had been pressured by the Russian government into 
withdrawing its prior certifications of Yukos books and 

Lebedev ruling and other "international" issues 
--------------------------------------------- -- 

 4. (SBU) The Yukos battle continues simultaneously both on 
domestic and the international fronts, with some concrete 
effects on the case's proceedings in Moscow. On December 23, 
the Russian Supreme Court ruled that the 2003 decision to 
arrest and detain Lebedev was illegal, in keeping with a 2007 
ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). (Note: 
The GOR often loses cases at the ECHR, and its common 
practice is to pay the compensation required by the ECHR's 
rulings while ignoring the substantive redress of the 
systemic problem involved. This decision represents a rare 
departure from this practice and signals a potentially 
encouraging trend. End Note.) The Supreme Court's ruling 
indicated only that the first two months of Lebedev's six 
years (to date) of incarceration were illegal, and thus might 
be considered only marginally relevant. However, the defense 
might use this ruling to argue that the entire conviction was 
tainted by the illegal detention and therefore should be 
thrown out. Defense lawyers told Radio Free Europe that they 
have not yet decided how to proceed, but called the ruling a 
"victory," while expressing bewilderment at the Supreme 
Court's two-year delay in ruling on the case. 

 5. (SBU) On December 23, Moscow's Basmanny Court issued an 
arrest warrant in absentia for former Yukos treasurer Andrey 
Leonovich, which Khodorkovskiy's lawyers called a ploy to 

pressure witnesses, and which will likely further exacerbate 
tensions with the UK (where Leonovich now resides) over the 
issue of extraditions. This move follows a December 2 ruling 
by an international arbitration tribunal in the Hague that 
Russia is bound by the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT), thus 
requiring the GOR to defend itself against claims from Yukos 
shareholders for an estimated 100 billion USD in damages (ref 
A). This sum would be the largest arbitration award ever, 
representing 10 percent of Russia's GDP, and although 
collecting the entire amount would be difficult, it could 
allow shareholders to seize state assets outside of Russia. 
The ECT ruling could affect, among others, companies such as 
Royal Dutch Shell and BP who were forced to renegotiate 
contracts on terms favorable to the GOR. 

Russians apathetic, but skeptical towards GOR 

 6. (SBU) Given such significant international implications to 
the case, and given Khodorkovskiy's former stature, one might 
expect a large amount of focus on the Yukos case inside 
Russia. However, most Russians continue to pay scant 
attention (ref B). According to a December poll by the 
Levada Center encompassing 1,600 respondents in 127 cities 
and villages, only a little more than one-third of Russians 
are following the case (a May Levada poll showed the same 
figure for people who were at all aware that the case 
existed). The same poll, however, revealed a notable 
divergence in public opinion from the "party line" maintained 
by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. In his December 3 
televised question and answer session with the public, Putin 
defended the legitimacy of Khodorkovskiy's incarceration and 
accused Khodorkovskiy of also being a murderer. He also 
claimed that all of the earnings from the sale of Yukos were 
being funneled into the country's Housing and Utilities Fund. 
The Levada poll, however, showed that 65 percent of 
respondents did not believe Putin's claim about the Housing 
Fund, and 50 percent believed that Putin should be summoned 
as a witness in the case. 

Khodorkovskiy starting to lose hope 

 7. (SBU) Khodorkovskiy and Lebedev have consistently 
maintained an upbeat demeanor, frequently smiling and 
laughing during the proceedings, and chatting buoyantly with 
supporters. Over the course of his imprisonment, 
Khodorkovskiy has written a series of philosophical articles 
(printed in liberal papers such as Vedomosti) that have 
amounted to shadow policy papers of the type that he might 
write if he were one of the President's advisors. He had 
also expressed faith that the Russian court system would 
exhibit sufficient fairness and rule of law, and Judge 
Danilkin sufficient independence, to acquit him. In recent 
months Khodorkovskiy has made pessimistic statements that he 
does not expect ever to be freed. By all accounts, in 2003 
Khodorkovskiy did not believe he would actually be arrested. 
His thinking here seems to following a similar trajectory, 
from naive refusal to believe what is happening, to the 
gradual sinking in of the reality of his situation. 


 8. (C) The fact that legal procedures are apparently being 
meticulously followed in a case whose motivation is clearly 
political may appear paradoxical. It shows the effort that 
the GOR is willing to expend in order to save face, in this 
case by applying a superficial rule-of-law gloss to a cynical 
system where political enemies are eliminated with impunity. 
It is not lost on either elite or mainstream Russians that 
the GOR has applied a double standard to the illegal 
activities of 1990s oligarchs; if it were otherwise, 
virtually every other oligarch would be on trial alongside 
Khodorkovskiy and Lebedev. There is a widespread 
understanding that Khodorkovskiy violated the tacit rules of 
the game: if you keep out of politics, you can line your 
pockets as much as you desire. Most Russians believe the 
Khodorkovskiy trial is politically motivated; they simply do 
not care that it is. Human rights activists in general have 
an uphill battle in overcoming public apathy and cynicism, 
but nowhere more so than in the Khodorkovskiy case. We will 
continue to monitor the case as it unfolds.