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    Sentence turns Khodorkovsky into politician - Russian expert

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    MOSCOW, June 1. (RIA Novosti) - Now that Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former head of Yukos, has been sentenced to nine years behind bars he has become a real political figure, said Stanislav Belkovsky, director of the Institute for National Strategy.

    In today's Vedomosti, a leading business daily, the analyst wrote that the oil ex-tycoon had become the first major politician outside Russia's present power establishment. Belkovsky said the former chief executive did not believe in deals with the Kremlin, which left him as the only political figure truly independent of it.

    The expert said Khodorkovsky was on his own, as he did not belong to the system that President Vladimir Putin understood and could control. The article continued now that Khodorkovsky had lost everything, apart from his life and dignity, he could make decisions without fear that the presidential administration would deprive him of something else.

    Accordingly, Belkovsky said Khodorkovsky had every chance of becoming a center of genuine (outside the establishment) opposition in Russia. Moreover, the crux of charges against him suggested that he could move to the political left, which is where the new Russian authorities will emerge.

    The expert wrote that Vladimir Putin, his deputy chief of staff Igor Sechin, and others had proven yet again that they could not think politically. For them, politics seems to be a hard way of earning money. Indeed, with such aces up his sleeve as overwhelming public support and absolute control over mass communication, Putin hardly needed the oligarch in prison to ruin him politically. Imprisonment was needed to take away his oil assets and distribute them between the right people. Putin was aware that, while winning the property, he was losing the political battle. Politically, the Kremlin made the problem much worse.

    Belkovsky said it would probably have been best for Khodorkovsky's family if he had pleaded for mercy and possibly been released from prison, but the opposition would win more if he stayed where he is. The expert said the ex-Yukos head would certainly not serve all the nine years, but would probably face three more years at most, which would be half the sentence with parole, or a change of power - whichever came first.

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