Mikhail Khodorkovsky: Russia is need of honest election practices, federalism, local government

Former head of the defunct oil company Yukos Mikhail Khodorkovsky said "the independent opposition" should be allotted a place in the political system to fight authoritarianism and bureaucracy.

"How can authoritarianism be dismantled in Russia and the autocrats' push towards power blocked? There are three options: use of force, non-violent pressure from below and voluntary reform in the upper echelons. Combinations are possible," Khodorkovsky said in answer to questions from Novaya Gazeta readers.

If authoritarianism is be to defeated in Russia, a system of honest elections should be created and federalism and local government guaranteed, he said. "The independent opposition should be allotted a real place in the political system that would allow it to exercise control over the bureaucrats," he also said.

Khodorkovsky and his business partner Platon Lebedev were arrested in 2003 and sentenced to nine years for fraud and tax evasion in May 2005. The Moscow City Court cut the sentence to eight years. Reports about a second case started against Khodorkovsky and Lebedev emerged when their first trial was about to end. They were sentenced to 14 years in December 2010 for crude embezzlement and money laundering. The Moscow City Court cut the sentence to 13 years six months later.

The terms' countdown starts in 2003, when they were arrested under the first Yukos case, so both are to be freed in 2016. Khodorkovsky is serving his term at correctional colony No. 7 in Segezha, Karelia, and Platon Lebedev at the Velsk colony in the Arkhangelsk region.

Amnesty International has recognized Khodorkovsky and Lebedev as prisoners of conscience.

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