Russians are indifferent to former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, his pardon by the Russian president and his release from prison at the end of last year, the Public Opinion Foundation said.
Almost a third (30 percent) of 1,500 respondents polled in 43 regions of Russia on December 28-29 said they did not know who Khodorkovsky was, 41 percent said they did not care, 15 percent said they had negative feelings towards Khodorkovsky and only 9 percent liked him.
As to the early release of the former Yukos CEO from custody, 41 percent of the respondents who knew who Khodorkovsky was said they were indifferent, 13 percent welcomed his release, 11 percent had a negative attitude and 5 percent could not answer the question.
Those who welcomed Khodorkovsky's pardon said he had spent enough time in prison (5 percent), the sentence was unlawful (2 percent), they pitied him (2 percent), and the former Yukos top manager was a good person who could be of use to his country (1 percent).
The opponents of Khodorkovsky's release said "a thief must go to prison" (4 percent), he stole from people and must fully serve his prison term (2 percent) and he must return the stolen money (1 percent).
Some 38 percent of the respondents said that the release of Khodorkovsky was an insignificant event in the country's life. Those who called it significant forecasted positive (7 percent) and negative (8 percent) outcomes and 17 percent were undecided.
As to why Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to pardon Khodorkovsky, 7 percent said he had been kept in prison long enough, 6 percent said the president acted in a humane manner, 3 percent said the president made the decision to meet the West halfway or in the view of the upcoming Olympic Games, and 5 percent suggested it was a political game of Putin. Only 2 percent said that the president pardoned Khodorkovsky because the latter made that request.
Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky was arrested in 2003. In May 2005, a district court in Moscow sentenced him to nine years in prison for fraud and tax evasion. The Moscow City Court later reduced the sentence to eight years.
When the trial was close to completion, reports on a second case against Khodorkovsky emerged. In December 2010, Khodorkovsky was sentenced to 14 years in prison for oil theft and legalization of proceeds from its sale.
Six months later, the Moscow City Court cut the sentence to 13 years. The duration of Khodorkovsky's prison term is counted from the moment he was arrested under the first Yukos case in 2003.
On August 6, 2012, the Supreme Court partially upheld a complaint filed by the defense teams of Khodorkovsky and his former business partner and former Menatep CEO Platon Lebedev and cut their sentences by two months.
The Supreme Court refused to cut the sentences to the time Khodorkovsky and Lebedev had actually served and free them. Khodorkovsky's revised sentence would have expired expire in August 2014 and Lebedev is expected to walk free in May 2014.
Putin signed the pardon decree on December 20, the former Yukos CEO was released on the same day and flew to Germany.