Expert doubts that West will fall out with Russia over Yukos affair

MOSCOW, June 3 (RIA Novosti) - The West will hardly start a "harsh divorce" with Russia over the Yukos controversy, Olga Kryshtanovskaya, prominent Russian sociologist, said.

She is the head of the Elite Study Center of the Institute of Sociology under the Russian Academy of Sciences.

"It is hardly possible that Russia will find itself in isolation or come under international sanctions now that Khodorkovsky and Lebedev have been convicted," she said.

In spite of criticisms of Russia pronounced by Western journalists, national leaders of other countries are making do with cautious warnings, she said.

Russian authorities will hardly change their policies today. "Many say a new political era has come in, with impending mass reprisals against the business community, the Cold War re-enacted, and this country plunging back into the chasm of Stalinism. All that is out of the question," the sociologist said.

"Authorities have not given whatever signal to the population that it is switching to authoritarianism. However, certain changes are ahead in Russia," she added.

"Businessmen who are dissatisfied with the federal political line and suffered from authorities will try to take vengeance. They will be funding protesters, who may eventually take this country to an Orange Revolution [meaning recent dramatic events in Ukraine]. These protesters are a very scanty force just now, but they have a resource to reckon with."

Kryshtanovskaya is presently working on a book about Mikhail Khodorkovsky, former CEO of the controversial oil giant Yukos. He was recently convicted to nine years in prison for tax evasion and fraud involving huge sums. Platon Lebedev, Menatep financial group CEO and co-defendant on the case, was sentenced to a similar prison term.

When asked about Khodorkovsky's plans, she said: "He is not yet sure whether he will go into politics". As for the convicted tycoon's recent scathing statement, she explained he "was coming out as a person under reprisals, and as an expert but not as a man in active politics. Khodorkovsky is at the crossroads. He would like to be a protest movement leader, but he is not yet doing anything to become one."

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