An interview with Leonid Nevzlin.

Question: What do you ascribe delays with the verdict to?

Leonid Nevzlin: The claims that judges needed more time do not hold water. The administrative resource has been brought into play. By the Kremlin, I suspect. As I see it, the postponement was agreed on because Putin was in Israel at the time. The visit was not prepared, you know. There were speculations after that that it would not hurt to wait until after May 9, celebrations and Russia-EU summit. All of that made May 16, the first working day. It enabled the authorities to double the time they needed to draft the verdict.

Question: About Putin’ visit… Why do you say it was not prepared?

Leonid Nevzlin: Israeli media wondered on the eve of the visit what Putin was coming to Israel for. It is not any wiser even now. Everybody expected him to make some noise over the runaway Russian oligarchs. Or over the missile deal with Syria. That he would say, as always, that it had been a joke or something. Nothing of the sort happened. The visit never became a milestone or anything. It became the first visit of the leader of Russia to Israel, nothing more. As always, all attention was focused on the war on terrorism. That was all. Had the sentence been passed, on the other hand, Putin would have found it necessary to answer questions and that was something he did not want. Because he did not have any answers. From the Israeli point of view, the YUKOS affair was the main context of the visit – even though the matter was never discussed.

Question: You seem to be preconceived. There were the rumors that you planned some protest actions here, in Israel…

Leonid Nevzlin: The fact is Putin’s visit here was not something momentous for Israel or Israelis. Had someone here been protesting against something, it would have been a laugh. So, making the visit as unobtrusive as possible was the best form of protest.

Question: Do you think that this is what happened?

Leonid Nevzlin: Yes, that’s precisely what I think happened. As for what I was interested in, I took all protest action through the media. I had newspapers here publish the latest decisions of international organizations concerning the YUKOS affair, the decisions that recognized the matter as undeniably political. I believe that I had some indirect effect on preparations for Putin’s visit.

Question: The situation seems to be deteriorating. Would you say that you are fighting for a lost cause?

Leonid Nevzlin: On the contrary, I’ve won the case. Or will win it soon, if you prefer. What is clear is the impossibility of having a fair trial in Russia.

Question: Speaking about how you’ve won or are about to win, do you mean in the media?

Leonid Nevzlin: I’m convinced that I will get everything back. Not necessarily in the form of assets. Cash will suit me just fine. I count on court verdicts and a levy from the government of Russia for what has been stolen from us. It will be difficult, it will take time, but that’s all I can count on. Discounting appearance of a new regime in Russia, of course. In any case, I will strive for being recompensed by this regime exactly. Why? Because this regime can pay it out of its own pocket, while its successor will be forced to use budget money, money of taxpayers. It is the thief that has to pay for what he has stolen.

Question: What about your promises to expose corruption in Russia if and when the verdict were not in Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s favor? Are you bluffing?

Leonid Nevzlin: That’s a misunderstanding. I will have corruption in Russia in the focus of attention and discussed in any case. Regardless of the verdict. I’m just waiting for the verdict.

Question: Do you really think that scandals and smearing materials will change correlation of political forces? After all, this is what you are after, right?

Leonid Nevzlin: What do you mean? It’s just that I’m trying to help Russia to shed a criminal regime.

Question: Who are your targets – Kudrin and Medvedev? You called these men guilty of disintegration of the YUKOS empire.

Leonid Nevzlin: Putin is guilty of everything. Personally guilty. He and Roman Abramovich acted together. As for the men charged with execution of the plans, they are Sechin (he was in charge of security structures involved) and Surkov (in charge of PR). Medvedev and Kudrin helped them by following orders or encouraging official structures. Moreover, they were doing that in their official capacities. That’s what makes them perfect targets for litigation. When I speak of the government, I mean these two first and foremost.

Question: But you yourselves called them lowly executioners…

Leonid Nevzlin: What’s the difference? Are we going to talk of their morals now or what? As far as I’m concerned, everyone working for Putin is amoral. All of them should be tried.

Question: What about Abramovich? What interests could he possibly promote?

Leonid Nevzlin: He has his own interests all right. Perhaps, he aspires for more than he already has.

Question: But Abramovich too is withdrawing assets from Russia. Just like other Russian oligarchs.

Leonid Nevzlin: It does not matter what he may be imitating. What counts is that he plays along, doing Putin’s bidding. All the rest accepted rules of the game. They make money in Russia, withdraw capitals abroad, buy assets in the West, and establish contacts there. Nobody is secure.

Question: What was your silence ascribed to? Were there any negotiations with the authorities under way? As a matter of fact, do you maintain any contacts with the Kremlin and decision-makers there?

Leonid Nevzlin: Information from the Kremlin is leaking from every nook. I do not deserve any praise for it. The matter concerns total corruption of the regime. People buy information and pass it on to me. I’m not involved. I do not have working for me anybody who wields any clout with the processes there or who is a civil servant. At least, I have never sought out men like that or appealed for their help. As for negotiations, there have been no negotiations. There were several attempts at blackmail, some intermediaries, some telephone calls. Nothing serious, in other words. Nothing worth discussing.

Question: You met Putin in 1999, right? You failed to see what he really was, didn’t you?

Leonid Nevzlin: Yes, I met him right on the eve of his rise to premiership. The first impression was pretty neutral. I did not understand him then. Sure, he changed greatly. Burden of power is a great changer, you know. And do not forget that I was meeting director of the Federal Security Service, not president of Russia. For director of the Federal Security Service, he was quite adequate. I did not even know that the decision had already been made…

Question: Was this failure to see through him a tactical mistake on your part?

Leonid Nevzlin: Why? I had ample opportunities then to become his confidant, but what for? I have my own views and notions. That feeling of internal freedom, it’s very personal, you know.

Question: You regularly speak of a new regime in Russia. Are you waiting for 2008? Provided there is a worthy opponent to Putin, will you back him or her?

Leonid Nevzlin: I do not know what will happen in 2008. Perhaps, I won’t care anymore. Who knows?

Question: Mikhail Kasianov who intends to run for president is being geared for becoming a Russian Yuschenko. Do you think this turn of events possible?

Leonid Nevzlin: And who will be a Russian Timoshenko? Let us wait for her to appear before we talk of Russian Yuschenkos. And besides, why ask me about Kasianov? Wrenching power from Putin by simple means will be a sheer impossibility. Do you think that if Kasianov is not called Putin’s successor, he will be given access to the media and control over the Central Election Commission under Alexander Veshnyakov?

Question: Do you plan to return to Russia?

Leonid Nevzlin: Never.

Question: Why leave the Russian citizenship then?

Leonid Nevzlin: I’ll deal with it at a later date. Everything will depend on how long Putin lasts. Or someone else like Putin. If the regime survives 2008, I’ll abandon Russian citizenship.

Question: Are you afraid of extradition?

Leonid Nevzlin: It is something to be decided in Israel, not in Russia. There is law here. Besides, Israel will never extradite me, not with the kind of charges pressed against me in Russia.

Question: And if the missiles to Syria are at stake?

Leonid Nevzlin: Particularly then. Israel extradites people whose guilt is proved. My has not been.