Following his sentencing, ex-Yukos boss Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been sent to a jail in Siberia – YaG-14/10 to be precise, which is near Chita. His co-defendant, Platon Lebedev has been sent to a prison in the Arctic region of Yamalo-Nenets, 2,000 km north of Moscow.
There is some concern about the legality of these moves, with his lawyers, and human rights activists saying that Russian law stipulates a prisoner should be imprisoned close enough to his home city that relatives can visit relatively easily (which, of course, would mean that he would have to be somewhere close to Moscow):
His confinement in IK-10 camp will put him a six-hour flight plus a seven-hour car ride from Moscow, and human rights bodies accused authorities of violating Russian law by sending him so far from his home and family.
“The law says that a general regime prisoner should serve his term somewhere close to his home. The Russian authorities are spitting on their own law,” said Yevgeny Ikhlov of the All-Russian Movement for Human Rights.
“This is being done on purpose to complicate as much as possible Khodorkovsky’s contacts with his family, his defence and with society. Khodorkovsky is a prominent public figure and prominent opposition ideologist and everything is being done to isolate him,” Ikhlov told Reuters.
Clearly the choice of his prison – far, far away from Moscow and the prying eyes of the international press – was intentional. Whether it breaks Russian law, I have no idea. If it does, expect to see Khodorkovsky’s lawyers back in action pretty soon.
The BBC, by the way, has a profile of Khodorkovsky’s prison – which used to service Uranium mines in the 1960s:
Today, YaG-14/10 is chiefly a garment factory where inmates sew protective clothing for the prison system and the police, as well as making bed linen and doing private orders.
Khodorkovsky will find himself about 4,700km (3,000 miles) east of Moscow.
On the evening the name of his prison was revealed, it was -9C in Krasnokamensk; by January, the average daily temperature should range between -18C and -33C.
According to Zabinfo, most of YaG-14/10’s inmates are serving between three and five years and the average age is 24 – significantly younger than Khodorkovsky, 42.
The most common conviction is theft with 40% of inmates sentenced for it.
Russia Blog has more information on the prison, which seems to indicate that, as Russian prisons go, YaG-14/10 isn’t so bad:
As of 2002, the colony had 1389 prisoners. There were rumors that the prisoners were forced to work in the mines, but the rumors were false. Today, the colony is one of the top prison facilities in the country; the prisoners live in two-story brick buildings, and sleep in bunks. There is a TV in the recreation room, and on the weekends prisoners are allowed to attend a “club”. Prisoners can be employed to sew textiles or work in a metal shop.
By the looks of this report from Mosnews, Khodorkovsky has already found a useful way to occupy his time while he serves at Putin’s pleasure – he’s going to write a PhD dissertation:
Mikhail Khodorkovsky is a graduate of the National Institute of Oil and Gas in Moscow. His Ph.D thesis will likely be dedicated to his work. According to Russian law he can defend it even in prison.
Good for him.
According to Mosnews, though, Khodorkovsky has brought two suitcases filled with books with him. Question: Just how much luggage is the average Russian prisoner allowed to bring with them?