The 10th anniversary of the imprisonment of former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky was recently marked. Meanwhile, former presidential candidate Nikolai Statkevich, leader of the Belarussian Social Democratic Party, will start the third year of a six-year sentence in a medium security penal colony. In Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko will have completed two years of her seven-year sentence for “abuse of power” and “embezzlement” unless released under the pressure of the European Union.
All three are widely considered to be political prisoners. But while focus has often been on the wrongfulness of their detentions, less has been written about the motives of those behind them: Presidents Vladimir Putin, Alexander Lukashenko and Viktor Yanukovych.
They have much in common. All three are products of the Soviet era. They are all of similar age: Yanukovych is 63, Putin is 61 and Lukashenko is 59. All three have a checkered past. Yanukovych has a criminal record, now erased, Putin instituted harsh repressions in Chechnya, and Lukashenko has effectively usurped power by eliminating the 1994 Constitution and empowering the KGB to harass and punish opponents.