Two nations, two paths - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Two nations, two paths

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Posted: Sunday, January 2, 2005 6:09 pm | Updated: 9:22 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

As Ukraine celebrates, Russia sinks further into darkness and despair.

Millions of people spoke in Ukraine, and their voices were heard.

In a rerun of the presidential election ordered by Ukraine's Supreme Court, Viktor Yushchenko won a convincing victory, although his opponent, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, has so far refused to concede. Boisterous, yes, and still far from certain, but hopeful.

In Russia, though, one of the few people willing to speak freely is already in jail. He's Mikhail Khodorkovsky, former head of the oil group Yukos. In a letter in Tuesday’s business daily Vedomosti he denounced the Kremlin's takeover of the group's main production unit for far less than its true value, in a phony auction.

Yukos, which was worth $40 billion last year, is valued now at less than $2 billion, and is likely to fall further since its credit rating was lowered to "default" Tuesday by Standard & Poor's.

Even President Vladimir Putin's top economic adviser called the auction "the fraud of the year."

Khodorkovsky warned that the methods used to bring down Yukos, including selective justice and the retroactive application of new laws, will destroy confidence in Russia's legal system and hurt the economy. But even more troubling, he said, was the shrinking of political freedoms — his own troubles are believed to result from Putin's dislike of his political activities.

Putin meddled in Ukraine's first presidential runoff and, unfortunately, he doesn't seem to understand how much Russia could be learning from its neighbor's newly vital politics.

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