The last few days have seen a slow awakening of Europe and the United States to a sad reality – some of their actions against Russia can backfire. The European financial markets’ plunge after the sanctions were announced was much deeper than Russia. And the recent ruling of the court in The Hague (Holland) obliging Russia to pay the unprecedented $50 billion in damages to the former shareholders of the Yukos oil company may complicate matters even more.
“This is simply too much money. They won’t get it” — such was the comment from Yevgeny Yasin, former minister of economy in Boris Yeltsin’s government and a staunch supporter of Yukos and its controversial CEO, Mikhail Khodorkovsky. If Yasin is making such a claim on the radio station Ekho Moskvy, known for its critical stance towards president Putin and the Russian state in general, something must have gone terribly wrong with that court ruling indeed. It looks like the Dutch have made too big a gift to the former owners of Yukos, some of whom have been convicted for contract murders and embezzlement in Russia and remain at large, hiding in Israel and the EU countries.
Within one week, the Russian state was obliged to pay to Yukos former owners twice – with two European courts judging Russia for the same “crime.” (The European Court of Human Rights obliged Russia to pay $1.86 billion to the Yukos owners two days later than the Dutch court ended its 10 years long analysis of the case with a $50 billion price tag for Russia.) This is a clear breach of the fundamental principle of law saying that the same defendant can’t be judged for the same crime twice. Well, after president Obama and prime minister Cameron declared Russia guilty of the disaster of the MH17 flight in Eastern Ukraine not only before the trial, but even before the evidence was collected – there are few breaches of procedure that can surprise Russians. Russia’s envoy to the EU Vladimir Chizhov said that the “coincidence” of two court rulings being made against Russia within one week, with the accusations over MH-17 and Russia’s presumed (by Obama) breach of the Intermediate Missile Ban Treaty looming in the background – this situation did not look at all “coincidental.” And nothing discredits justice more than suspicion of politicized rulings.
Here is the opinion of former French minister of culture Luc Ferry, a prominent public activist who recently visited Eastern Ukraine:
“I think the sanctions and court rulings against Russia are totally absurd. They simply don’t make sense. The aim of these sanctions is to humiliate Russia. Meanwhile, the interest of the US is by no means in making Russia feel humiliated. As far as these sanctions’ effectiveness is concerned, I think it will be close to zero. They are just irritating for Russians. Sanctions are a dead end in terms of finding a solution to the problem in Ukraine, because the problem is not in Putin, but in the civil war in Ukraine, which has nothing to do with Putin, but rather with the contradictions between Russia-hating and Russia-loving Ukrainian citizens. The solution could be federalization of Ukraine, but no one in the West is even considering such an option,” Luc Ferry said in an interview with Rossiya Segodnya.
However, before failing, the above-mentioned court rulings can still inflict enormous damage on the EU countries as well as on Russia.
“There is a possibility that, not being able to get the money from Russia, the West may seize the property of, say, the Russian company Rosneft abroad,” said Paul Stock, a legal advisor to energy companies in London’s City. “But British Petroleum (BP) holds a 20 percent share in Rosneft. So, it may also lose money, even if only in an indirect way. As for the sanctions and even legal actions against individuals – people whose assets the US and the EU say they want to freeze, this looks like economic warfare, whose aim is just to inconvenience the life for some of Russia’s business leaders. Economic warfare is not good for economy – on both sides,” Paul Stock said.
As for the “moral impact” of the European court rulings on Russia’s public opinion, it may be contrary to the one desired by the West. Among the beneficiaries of the $50 billion-worth ruling is Leonid Nevzlin, the former vice-president of Yukos. In Russia he was convicted in absentia of several contract killings, which he ordered in order to make Yukos Russia’s biggest and richest company by 1999 (everyone remembers how big fortunes were made in Russia’s 1990s). Also, without having any special education or scientific achievements, Nevzlin was made rector (!) of the Russian State University for Humanities (RGGU) – thanks to Yukos’s money and influence.
In this situation, giving this kind of persons $50 billion will not add to the popularity of the Western justice in the eyes of Russians. With very few exceptions – perhaps Ekho Moskvy radio will be one of them. But this is all the Western media and politicians want to hear: this radio is the first to interview them, when they come to Moscow.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not reflect the official position of Sputnik.