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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Annals of Jailtime: Khodorkovsky in Chita

Robert Amsterdam offers readers another inside look at Mikhail Khodorkovsky's jail time, courtesy of hero reporter Grigory Pasko, through the eyes of convict Denis Yurinsky was the first work supervisor for convict Mikhail Khodorkovsky at Krasnokamensk general regime colony No. 10.

My first meeting with Khodorkovsky went like this. Once they announced to everybody in the camp: get everything in order, a big commission has arrived. They were getting the camp ready for something, they were putting everything in order, even the cops [as the zeks call the colony staff – G.P.] were taking out garbage. They were saying that they were bringing 20 Chechens. Then the stage arrives and I see that they’ve brought just one guy. In glasses, average height, squat and compact. I says to the cops – that’s all your Chechens? That’s how I found out that they’d brought Khodorkovsky.

They usually put all new arrivals in quarantine for 15 days, in separate barracks. Only then do they bring them out into the “zone”. Mikhail Borisovich was brought out to barrack No. 8. Then he ended up on my work team – a packer of finished output. He packed bedding, folding it up. We chatted, a normal guy. I called him Misha. There’s no such thing as using formal address, or calling someone by name-and-patronymic [e.g. Mikhail Borisovich – Trans.], among zeks. It’s easier to use the informal form of address, and that’s the customary way. Yes, I noticed immediately that this is a guy who isn’t afraid of work.

He came in 2005, in the autumn. The two of us worked together for nearly a year. Until August 2006. Everything that took place with him took place on my watch. I even took part in one process, when they were removing Yevstratov, the chief of the colony. The first time they locked up Khodorkovsky for not being at his workplace. He came to me, he asks how the sewing machines work. And right then the duty guard shows up – to do a head count of people at the workplaces. And that’s how Khodorkovsky ended up in the punishment isolator. This had never happened before, that they locked someone up in the punishment isolator for something like that. I was often not in one place. My workplace was the entire industrial zone. And lots of people can come and go like that – on business. The fact that they locked Mikhail up – this was a special action, they were looking for a reason to lock him up.

I then found out through my sources that there was an instruction from above: Khodorkovsky has to have one constant violation of the rules of confinement. It doesn’t matter for what. What matters is that it be and that it be all the time.

So the cops tried hard. But Mikhail Borisovich is no fool, and had learned a lot in Matrosskaya Tishina. He wouldn’t let them pull a fast one on him, he’d studied the laws well. So sometimes they even fired staff who, I guess, weren’t able to handle the assignment – to announce reprimands to him.

The incident with the lemons – you know, when Khodorkovsky shared with someone – is also wild. They say that they specially invented a new edict about the alienation of other’s property just to punish Mikhail. This is how they explained it: if you give someone a smoke, for example, then you’re driving him into debt. Total drivel! We’ve always given and have always shared everything, because that’s how it’s always been done. Even the staff gave us cigarettes. But after this edict some kind of idiocy started to take place.

In short, they punished Khodorkovsky specially the second time too.
I can’t imagine that every convict in every Russian colony is carrying out this edict.

The third incident was the one with convict Kuchma. Yevgeni was his name. He was with Khodorkovsky in the 8th detachment. I’ve known him a long time. Kuchma lived in Chita before the colony. Now, rumor has it, he’s in another “zone”.

“The situation, as I understood it, was like this: Kuchma had entered into a conflict with certain criminals. And he needed to come up with a reason for them to transfer him to another “zone”. I don’t know if he thought of that himself, to stab Khodorkovsky, or if someone suggested it to him. But it worked. He stabbed Mikhail, and they transferred him to another colony. They didn’t even throw him in the punishment isolator. But they let fly a rumor that Khodorkovsky had paid him 500 dollars to create such an incident, so that Khodorkovsky would end up looking like a martyr.

Dozens of commissions came to the colony after they’d brought Khodorkovsky there. So Yevstratov had no chance to hold on to his job as chief of the colony. I heard that they’re already locking up some of the staff too. This has to do with the fact that their relations among each other have gotten more brutal. They’re all being searched, stripped down to their underwear. It didn’t used to be that way. Before they could probably even bring an elephant into the “zone” for the prisoners. No more. And after they’re fired, they’ll never be able to get a job as a cop anywhere else ever again.

Yes, I know that Khodorkovsky is now sitting in the investigative isolator in Chita. Different people have different feelings about him. I’m positive about him, because I’ve had a chance to talk with him and see what he’s like in real life. He told me how he’d earned his money. People will never understand this. They don’t believe that you can earn big money honestly. And then there’s those who think that this is all just politics, that he’s an opponent of Putin’s.

I got early release. I literally bough my release with camouflage. I sewed a good uniform, and they did the documents for me for this. Now I’m married to a woman with children, I’m busy with the house. If everything will be normal, we’ll have our wedding in the summer.


avi said...

What's next? Do you plan to overthrow Putin's regime?

La Russophobe said...

Next after what? Getting Russia to follow the law and treat prisoners with humanity?

As things stand now,there won't be time for anyone to overthrow Putin. He will destroy Russia by himself long before that, just as Stalin did.

Is it really too much to hope for that the people of Russia will simply vote down his policies?