Bloomberg reports that Russia’s commissioner for business rights believes freeing Mikhail Khodorkovsky as part of an amnesty program for people convicted of economic crimes would send a positive signal to investors.
Boris Titov, interviewed at last week’s St. Petersburg International Economic Forum , said he will proposed that President Putin grant amnesty to some 13,000 people jailed for economic crimes, including Khodorkovsky:
For the investment climate, [releasing Khodorkovsky] would be good news. This should be just and the right decision. [Khodorkovsky] has been in prison too long. He did something, others also did, but nobody else is serving such a sentence.
While it’s doubtful that Titov’s views will come to fruition any time soon, the fact that he is pledging to improve the way the state handles economic crimes is a positive sign.
This one is bad for the economy and bad for freedom.
Just in time for Tuesday’s mass opposition protests that coincide with the annual Russia Day holiday, Vladimir Putin has approved a new law that increases the maximum fines for protest-related offenses to up to 300,000 rubles ($9,200). (Over the weekend a number of opposition leaders had their houses raided.)
In addition to raising the fines for private citizens almost 100 times what they were, the legislation also allows judges to sentence protesters to up to 200 hours of community service, bars protesters from wearing masks and forbids anyone with a criminal record from organizing a demonstration.
Despite admonitions from the Kremlin’s Presidential Council on Human Rights and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to veto the law, Putin demurred, saying it does not violate European norms.
No matter, says the opposition. Thousands of protesters are still planning on demonstrating Tuesday.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky in 2010
In a letter this week to the head of Russia’s Supreme Court, former Yukos chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky called for the annulment of his second conviction on trumped-up charges.
Last month a lower Supreme Court judge upheld the sentence, originally handed down in 2010. Late last year Khodorkovsky completed the term of his first conviction.
Khodorkovsky notes in the letter that his case “has acquired a symbolic meaning for millions of entrepreneurs, executives and all the educated and concerned citizens of Russia” – themselves harmed by the outcome of his case, as “thanks to it, the rate of much needed economic growth has been lost.” Russian equities continue to lag behind their BRIC counterparts thanks to what a number of analysts have termed the “Khodorkovsky discount.”
More on Khodorkovsky’s letter here. Read the full text of the letter here.
Lenin looks concerned with the rouble's recent performance
The AFP is reporting that the rouble reached a new three-year low Monday as worries increased regarding the eurozone crisis and falling oil prices.
Problems in the eurozone have compelled investors to flee to safer currencies, and investors remain concerned about capital flight from Russia, as some $35 billion left the country during the first quarter.
Urals blend crude was down to $96 a barrel Monday. For Russia to be able to balance its federal budget, oil prices must reach between $110-$120 a barrel.
The New York Times is reporting that BP is looking to sell its 50 percent stake in TNK-BP, its joint Russian venture, for upwards of $30 billion. ”Disputes with BP’s Russian billionaire partners in the joint venture and threats of legal action had cast a shadow over the investment,” write Julia Werdigier and Andrew Kramer.
TNK-BP chairman Mikhail Fridman resigned earlier in the week, suggesting trouble in the company - a sentiment echoed by a statement issued Friday by Alfa Access Renova, or AAR, which is BP’s Russian partner in TNK-BP:
It has become apparent that the parity ownership structure has become inoperable given fundamental differences over strategy and governance between A.A.R. and BP.
Analysts were not all that surprised about news of the impending sale, given the difficulties Western companies often have doing business in Russia. Jefferies & Co. analyst Iain Reid told the Times that in Russia, “Corporate governance and trust has collapsed, [TNK-BP] is not paying dividends, and they can’t take broad decisions. It’s probably more trouble than it’s worth at the moment.” Read more here.