I am in no position to be dispassionate about President Vladimir Putin’s war against Russia’s “oligarchs,” the class of men and women (yes, there are some, the wife of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzkov being the most prominent) who control the country’s most lucrative companies and natural-resource assets. How can I be neutral, as I am usually counted among them? But an insiders’ perspective is valuable nonetheless, for only an insider knows what is really being done behind the scenes.
Having been a target of Putin’s “war,” I can speak of it in very concrete terms. Because I was forced to leave Russia and defend myself from the Kremlin while in exile in England, I know how the entire repressive power of a state can be brought to bear on a single man.
Such a thing could not happen in a Western democracy. Can anyone imagine the workings of the entire French state – the police, the security services, the military, and the bureaucracy – being coordinated to secure the imprisonment of a lone individual? In Russia, it is more than imaginable.
For years, the whole force of the Russian state has worked relentlessly to ensure my extradition to Russia in order to portray me as a criminal. It took me three years in a London court to prove that I was being prosecuted for purely political reasons. The British authorities ruled that I was to be given asylum – a decision that fortunately is not being challenged in Russia. At least some in the Kremlin realize that not all courts exist merely to do the bidding of those in power.