MOSCOW (RIA Novosti political commentator Vasily Kononenko) - The strong but divided reaction of politicians to the sentence handed down to the former owners of the Yukos oil giant yesterday instantly stirred the public.
Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin admitted that the Yukos saga had undermined trust in the Russian economy and it would take time to restore it. "It was and is a serious lesson to everybody," the minister said.
Grigory Yavlinsky, leader of the Yabloko party, said the sentences given to Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev represented "an act of intimidation."
But patriotic and leftwing politicians were left unhappy by the sentence. Dmitry Rogozin, leader of the Rodina (Homeland) party, asked rhetorically: "Why have not the other SOBs [oligarchs] been called to account?"
Could the harsh sentence split the political elite and provoke tension in society? The upper echelons of power are not worried about political stability.
Konstantin Simonov, the head of the Center for Current Politics in Russia, does not think there will be any clash between elite groups. After Mikhail Kasyanov and Alexander Voloshin lost their posts (as prime minister and presidential chief of staff), nobody in the Kremlin would dare openly flirt with the oligarchs.
The liberal part of the state bureaucracy, which is sometimes blamed for giving unjustified protection to big business, will hardly take radical steps, such as inciting the people to public protests. Russian society takes largely a negative view on the rich.
But external influence is a completely different matter. This is not the best time for Vladimir Putin to fend off such attacks.
Vyacheslav Nikonov, the head of the Politika Foundation, shares this opinion. He believes that the sentence to Khodorkovsky and Lebedev showed that the state authorities were becoming stronger and the political ambitions of big capital were becoming weaker. The political scientist said he was convinced that "the state has dampened the desire of big business to mess with politics."
Business is in no hurry to comment on this scandalous case. Arkady Volsky, the president of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, hinted that the mood in the community was tense.
How frightened is big business, including foreigners working in Russia? Pavel Medvedev, the deputy chairman of the State Duma's committee for credit organizations and financial markets, said close interaction with foreign businessmen and investors showed that they were "routinely indifferent" to the Yukos saga. Or maybe they are just good actors?
In the last 18 months of the trial, Russian business has accepted the rules of the game formulated by the state. Foreign investment into the Russian economy has grown considerably. So, Medvedev said there was no reason to worry about Russia's positive image taking a hit.