Citizen K (2019) Movie Script

[wind howling]
[flame roaring]
[grandiose music]
[foreboding music]
[foreboding music]
-[indistinct chatter]
-[camera shutters clicking]
[camera shutters clicking]
[reporter 1 in English]
The richest man in Russia,
Mikhail Khodorkovsky
seized at gunpoint
by Russian Special Forces...
[reporter 2]
Khodorkovsky is locked up
in an overcrowded
Russian prison.
[camera shutter clicks]
So, to stay at a prison,
why didn't you leave
the country?
[tense music]
[tense music continues]
-[indistinct chatter]
[Alex] To hear Vladimir Putin
tell it,
Mikhail Khodorkovsky
is a villain
in a real-life gangster movie.
But to Putin's opponent's,
Khodorkovsky's ten years
in a Siberian prison
made him a hero for the cause
of human rights and democracy.
Now out of prison,
Khodorkovsky is looking
for a third act.
That drew my interest
at a time
when we all seem haunted
by Russia's role in the world,
so I started a film about it.
[Alex]While I can go to Russia, he could not.
He's wanted there for murder.
So like many stories
about Russia these days,
this one started in London.
[tense music]
[gloomy music]
[Tatyana] Putin and Khodorkovsky
they are both very strong guy.
-Everyone else, weaker.
-[Alex] Yes.
But Putin...
respects Khodorkovsky
as a rival.
He really respects him,
because he is strong.
[no audible dialogue]
[audience clapping]
[gloomy music]
[Khodorkovsky laughing]
[light music]
[Alex] Just behind Red Square,
there's a shopping mall
where actors get paid
for posing in tourist photos,
playing Russia's past leaders.
In the winter of 2018,
I was told that the number
of Stalin's was multiplying.
A local joked
was that this was a sign.
Russia was nearing a pageantry
of election season.
Well, there is
no election season.
There's election theater.
[Derk] The Kremlin has to create
their own counter candidates.
Because no one wants to be
a candidate against Putin
because you will lose anyway.
[Alex]Today's election theatre
is what has become of Russia's
experiment in democracy.
A bold attempt to shift
from years of Communist rule
to free market capitalism.
[upbeat music]
[crowd chanting]
[Alex]In 1991, the Soviet Union has convulsed
in a struggle of its future.
But oligarch Communists
come to an empire
in a system that centralized
government control.
A new generation demanded economic and political freedoms.
Their charismatic leader,
who was Boris Yeltsin.
Yeltsin! Yeltsin! Yeltsin!
[upbeat music]
[Martin] Boris Yeltsin has
become the one rallying point
for oppositions
and the hardliners.
I was there as the BBC
Moscow correspondent
from '88 to the end of '91.
This is Martin Sixsmith.
Martin Sixsmith.
Martin Sixsmith.
BBC News Moscow.
[Martin] Yeltsin was a very,
very inspirational figure.
Back in 1991, he was the man
for the moment.
[crowd] Yeltsin! Yeltsin!
[Martin] It just felt like,
you know,
a sort of, see change
in the fortunes of a country.
[Martin] I remember writing
all these sort of,
great optimistic articles
about how decades of communism
have come to an end
and now we were going to have
a new Russia,
a new Russia with democracy
and freedom, and openness.
And looking back, I'm...
a little ashamed
that I wrote all that,
because the signs were there,
even then, I think,
that, um,
it wasn't going to work out.
[foreboding music]
[Martin] He was a man of great
intelligence, and great vision.
He was also a very decisive man.
As soon as a door opened,
he was straight through it.
He'd been a member of the young
communist organization,
Not because he believed
in communism
but because Gorbachev
and the Perestroika era
started to relax the ban
on private enterprise
starting with the Komsomol.
By the time the collapse of the
Soviet Union happened at 1991,
he had some cash in his pocket.
He created the first
commercial bank in Russia.
[foreboding music]
[Alex] "The Holocaust", he said,
"I thought of this all
as a game,
and I was good
at playing the game."
Exactly. He was good
at playing the game,
but most people were very bad
at playing the game.
[light music]
[Derk] Moving from the Soviet
Union into capitalist Russia,
most Russians
were completely naive.
Because they had read
all these propaganda
for all these years.
With capitalists, where people
was, you know...
big cigars, and money
coming out of their pockets.
And they imagined that you
would get rich automatically.
[Derk] Where they grew up,
everything was taken care of
by the state.
You know, free economy
sounds nice.
But you have to make choices
every five minutes.
[Alex] In the early '90s,
Russians face lots of choices
they didn't really understand.
Egged on by American
free market boosters,
the Russian government
announced a program
to hand out a chip worth around 40 dollars to every citizen.
The chips were called
And could be traded sole
for cash,
or exchanged for shares in small or state-owned enterprises.
They were sold as golden tickets
to escape the dead end
of communism.
[man screaming]
[Martin] It was a time of great
economic hardship,
and the ordinary people
didn't realize
what this piece of paper
was worth.
But the people who did,
some type of people
with suitcases full of cash,
and they said, "Look, you don't
need that piece of paper.
Here, we'll give you
ten dollars.
And you can go
and buy some bread."
[Alex] The more
Khodorkovsky made,
the more vouchers
and companies he could buy.
Either on the open market
or in backroom deals.
It was gangster capitalism,
with the rule of laws weak
and bendy as a rubber band.
[lively music]
[Martin] Under communism,
the absence of personal wealth
meant there were few targets
for violent criminals.
Now, organized crime groups
prey on the new rich
of the capitalist era.
Moscow's become
the murder capital of Europe.
If you were rich,
and people knew you were rich,
you were a target.
It's Wild West capitalism.
[dog barking]
[foreboding music]
[Derk] In '92, we launched
The Moscow Times.
And we had a lot of news.
A lot of people got killed,
and many, many companies
were looking for protection.
The Moscow Times
developed pretty well.
And then, two years later,
I launched Cosmopolitan.
Which, from day one, was
an enormous commercial success.
And it attracted a lot
of shady people.
I thought, you know,
maybe it's better
to get one of these rising
oligarchs as a shareholder.
There was one guy in particular
that I got interested in.
And it was Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
They moved to a very
fancy castle in Moscow.
Machine guns all over the place,
he had former KGB colonels
running his security.
This was not Russia, this was...
Khodorkovsky land, you know,
Medvedev has a nice house,
Nevzlin was next door,
and then,
there was Khodorkovsky.
I said that, "Most of the times,
it's a fiercely
independent newspaper.
And if we sell ten percent
of our sales...
we want to remain a fiercely
independent newspaper."
And he thought about it,
and he said yes.
[Derk] He was an extremely...
intelligent person.
But of course, using every trick
in the book available to him.
And at that time,
this transition from communism
to capitalism...
uh, was so fast,
that it was impossible for
the legal structure to keep up.
[lively music]
[lively music]
[Martin] But it's Berezovsky,
who was one
of the big seven oligarchs
very famously said...
"The seven of us controlled
50 percent...
of the whole Russian economy."
[Alex] Two of the oligarchs
placed big bets
on the future of television.
Boris Berezovsky
bought a national network
called Channel 1.
He thought he'd cash in
by turning
a Soviet propaganda vehicle
into a selling machine.
Vladimir Gusinsky set his sights on starting a new network
called NTV.
[radio static]
The original concept of NTV
was a TV channel,
which is not controlled
by the government.
[Igor] An investor who was...
Vladimir Gusinsky.
He didn't know anything
about TV at all, but...
there was a benefit.
He badly underestimated
how much it would cost.
[Alex] Gusinsky spent hundreds
of millions of dollars
buying movies,
launching game shows
and building an independent
news division from scratch.
Thanks to the Soviets,
most everyone in Russia
had TV sets.
So the money started rolling in.
[Derk] The oligarchs organized
between themselves.
"I do the oil, you do
the cable communications,
you do the real estate."
So, it was one big, uh, scam.
[Alex] For the oligarchs,
the scam of Russian capitalism
was only possible as long as there was a political system
that protected private property
and individual rights.
Call it "democracy."
But if the communists returned
to power, well...
that would have been bad
for business.
[Derk] Yeltsin was up
for re-election.
But the country was in a really,
really bad state.
People looked around,
if this is...
you know, capitalism
that they promised,
we don't want anything
to do with it.
[Martin] The government coffers
were empty,
so people's salaries
weren't being paid,
pensions weren't being paid.
And if you imagine,
as a president
who's not paying people's
pensions and people's salaries,
you're not gonna be
very popular.
It really did look
as if Gennady Zyuganov,
the communist leader,
who's going to beat Yeltsin
hands down at the election.
[Derk] The problem was that,
at that point, was so weak.
He was at the three percent
approval rate.
He was sick,
he had all these heart attacks,
he was down and out.
[grandiose music]
[Igor] One of the very new
things which NTV started doing,
was a puppet show calledKukly.
It was a really...
a satirical, satirical show.
Besame mucho
[Igor] In one of the show,
Mr. Yeltsin was portrayed
as Don Quijote.
And the head of his security
was portrayed
as his, uh, Sancho Panza.
It's not Russian tradition
to laugh at the president,
so laughing at... at a czar,
so to say, at an emperor...
was something unheard...
unheard of.
[Martin] Yeltsin was in a very
difficult situation.
We'd film him, and he'd be...
staggering across the room,
barely able to stand upright.
[Igor] It was clear
that he was quite ill.
But of course,
there was a natural...
sympathy and support for Yeltsin
from a Russian TV.
Yes, probably,
it was not very fair
but his opponent
was a communist.
Who, openly, was saying that,
"No such thing as freedom of...
of the press, or of this...
under his rule.
Openly supporting Yeltsin,
NTV hatched an elaborate plan
to hide the president's
ill health.
Malashenko sent a crew
to Yeltsin's country home
where he was secretly confined
to bedrest,
after a major heart attack.
[Igor] We had to demonstrate
that Yeltsin
is still alive, at least.
He was too seriously ill
to travel to Moscow.
So we took some furniture
from his Kremlin office
and we reproduced it
at his country house.
So at this set, he was visited
by Prime Minister Chernomyrdin
And Yeltsin spoke with him
for 30 seconds,
signed some paper,
and it was shown on TV.
Many times I was told that
it's a thing I shouldn't do.
My response is very simple.
It was and it is
that I would rather elect
the corpse of Yeltsin
than elect Zyuganov.
[upbeat music]
[Martin] We had suddenly,
this amazing, new Yeltsin.
And, you know, maybe the doctors
have given him a shot
of adrenaline or something.
But I think what had really
re-invigorated him
was the deal he'd cut
with the oligarchs.
They struck a Faustian bargain.
Which has become known
as loans for shares.
In every Faustian bargain,
the devil is in the details.
On the verge of collapse,
Yeltsin's government
desperately needed cash
to pay salaries and pensions.
The oligarchs agreed
to funnel money to the state
by making a series of loans
the government couldn't afford
to pay.
When the loans did default,
the oligarchs got the right
to buy
Russia's biggest
state enterprises.
And sham auctions run by the oligarchs themselves.
On TV, the deals played like
banking transactions.
In reality, the oligarchs
have cut inside deals
to pay bargain basement prices
for Russia's
most valuable assets.
Khodorkovsky was interested
in a massive state
oil company called Yukos.
His bank Menatep, was the only
bettor at the auction,
which was run by... Menatep.
At the time, Yukos was valued
at five billion dollars.
Menatep offered and paid
what it had on-hand,
three hundred and ten million.
A steal.
[Derk] It was all conflict
of interest.
There was no transparency,
it was just one big mess.
You know, we wrote
about this stuff.
And Menatep was a shareholder
of The Moscow Times.
Khodorkovsky himself
was not sitting on our board,
but Leonid Nevzlin,
his right hand man.
So this Nevzlin, was,
you know, fuming.
[Alex] Was there ever
any pressure on you
to write something
that was kind of, pro-Yukos?
[audience cheering]
[Derk] This was the biggest
mistake of the oligarchs
and the journalists,
and the liberals.
I blame them as much
as the communists
and the other forces, even more.
Because they were the people
who has the vision
and, and the will
to change, and...
and they were going to create
a new Russia.
And what do they do the first
time they get into trouble
in, you know, in '96...
their candidate may lose.
They just throw out
the whole idea
of a normal democratic process.
Putin is also a product
of the '90s.
[Martin] Vladimir Putin came
from nowhere.
He's been a minor official
in the KGB
in East Germany
when the war collapsed.
And found himself out of a job.
He found a post up in Leningrad
a man called Anatoly Sobchak.
[Derk] If you worked
your whole life with Sobchak,
the most liberal man in Russia,
you must be an okay guy.
That's what I thought.
[Alex] In fact,
Putin was accused
of launching a kickback scheme
to embezzle money meant
for food for St. Petersburg,
which was facing a famine.
When members of the city council raised the issue,
Sobchak did not fire Putin.
He promoted him to deputy mayor.
As if to commemorate the moment,
Putin commissioned this documentary about himself.
He kept the title simple.
[foreboding music]
[Alex]When Putin's boss failed to win re-election in 1996,
Putin and some friends
flew to Moscow
where they landed low-level jobs for the Kremlin.
Putin held six jobs
in three years.
By 1999, he was Prime minister,
and Yeltsin's likely successor.
But Putin didn't get to the top all by himself.
[Arkady] The oligarchs,
were in fact, the force,
that in many ways,
brought Vladimir Putin to power.
Putin was put there, very much,
to carry on Yeltsin's rule.
With the help
of ultimately, four people.
Yeltsin's daughter
and her husband,
and two of the oligarchs
who were close to Yeltsin,
Boris Berezovsky
and Roman Abramovich.
They were looking
for a successor
who would, basically guarantee
their safety
and guarantee their wealth.
[foreboding music]
[Alex] One of the so-called
set about selling Putin
to the public.
Boris Berezovsky
used his TV channel
to mock Putin's
political rivals,
and promote his image
as a tough leader.
[Alex] When a series
of explosions
killed hundreds in Moscow,
some suspect that Putin himself might have been involved.
But at the time, TV news footage
highlighted Putin's tough
response to the bombings,
which he blamed
on Chechen terrorists.
[woman 1] He's tough.
And I think this is the thing
that we need
in this country at the moment.
Some toughness.
[Alex] Yeltsin left office
on December 31st, 1999.
And appointed Putin
acting president.
Putin, in turn, promised
to forgive Yeltsin
for any sins or crimes
he may have committed.
It was another inside deal,
sealed by a new election
a few months later.
Putin running as an incumbent,
won easily.
Eighteen years later,
he's still in the same office.
[phone clanking]
[light music]
[Derk] Putinism is a way
to restore...
pride in your country.
Putinism in itself...
there's nothing wrong with it.
Uh, when Putin started...
he did a lot of good things
for the country.
Because it was a mess.
People were completely
Um, people longed...
to, to be part of something.
You know, if you grew up
in a world power,
and then the rest of the world
faced you as a joke,
as a Banana Republic,
it's very humiliating.
So people really needed
such a fable.
[Martin] Putin has declared
that he supported
the liberal views of Yeltsin,
and that he was going
to keep Russia
on the course of liberty
and openness.
But even then, you could see
that Putin was looking for a way
to recalibrate this relationship
between political barrier
and the oligarchs.
[Martin] At first he said,
"Look, we'll do a deal,
uh, I'm not gonna question
the results
of the privatization process,
which meant I'm not gonna try
and take back
your business empires
that you've...
got through the, uh,
loans for shares auctions.
As long as you keep out
of politics."
[Alex] For the moment,
that separation
of business and politics
served Khodorkovsky's interests.
For Khodorkovsky, business
had been hard enough.
He left banking
to focus on Yukos.
He travelled to remote regions
of Siberia
to learn how to pool oil
out of the ground,
move it and sell it.
And he had to motivate workers
and managers.
He never needed to care
for efficiency or competition.
[Derk] All these shady
global oil companies
that, you know, just lost money,
and were totally inefficient.
He turned it around, he started
streamlining these companies.
from a business perspective,
did an amazing job.
But you know, small towns
in Siberia,
a lot of the people who worked
there, they lost their job.
Many local mayors
were very unhappy.
And some mayors...
[Alex] One of those mayors
was Vladimir Petukhov,
of Nefteyugansk,
a major Yukos hub.
Petukhov was furious
with Khodorkovsky
for laying off
nearly 15,000 workers.
Delays in payroll, and battles
over paying local taxers.
Khodorkovsky claimed
that Petukhov
was in the grip
of Chechen gangsters.
And using taxes
to pay for bribes.
So Khodorkovsky flew to
Nefteyugansk with bags of cash
to make direct payments
to teachers,
nurses and city workers.
In protest, the mayor embarked
on a hunger strike.
Until finally, a deal was cut.
Four days later,
the mayor was shot.
[Arkady] At first, we went
to Nefteyugansk
to look at the oil industry
weeks after the murder
of the mayor.
And Khodorkovsky
was hated there,
because Khodorkovsky at that
time was already a billionaire,
and these were the people
who were,
basically, unable to get food.
I got angry
as a young journalist
and I wrote what I saw.
I don't know whether...
Khodorkovsky's man,
or himself was involved
in the death of the mayor.
I wouldn't put it past them.
[Martin] Petukhov, the mayor,
was murdered
on Khodorkovsky's birthday.
Birthdays have been interesting.
The other famous case
is Ana Politkovskaya.
The crusading journalist
who was investigating
lots of Kremlin corruptions.
And she was murdered
on Putin's birthday.
[reporter 2] Some observers
called it a meltdown.
Russian stocks are
at their lowest levels
since President Boris Yeltsin
had heart surgery in 1996.
The biggest concern now
is that the Russian government
will be forced
to devalue the ruble.
[gloomy music]
[Derk] He was opening schools,
you know, his foundation
was doing the work.
He was the entrepreneur
with the vision.
The type of entrepreneur
that Russia needed,
to create this new economy.
And he immediately
brought in Western
know-how, new technology,
And in a few years built,
you know, one of the best
oil companies in the world.
[light music]
[Alex] Khodorkovsky's work
at Yukos paid off.
When the ruble rose
along with the oil prices,
Just after the turn
of the century,
the Russian economy was booming.
Powered in large part by oil.
That was a business victory...
but it was also a moment
of political opportunity.
Who would take credit
for the turnaround?
Former KGB agent
turned politician?
Or the ruthless oligarch
whose attention was quickly turning to politics?
[Derk] Khodorkovsky's
an interesting man.
Because, now,
he has all these money.
He started thinking
about, you know,
"What's next?
What is my role in society?"
And this is why
he clashes with Putin.
[Igor] There are rumors
that Putin in particular,
didn't like one program...
where he was portrayed as a...
midget man, who became
a ruler of the country.
Due to his power of magic.
At some point,
magic disappeared,
and people see this midget man
for what he is.
Yeltsin could be angry
at some program,
but, uh, were no reprises.
Putin and his people had
an entirely different attitude
towards TV.
[Arkady] Putin was the product
of television.
They made him.
He was absolutely nobody.
I mean, nobody ever heard
of Vladimir Putin.
The fact that television
could actually help
make him into president,
within six months.
I think was enough for him
to understand the real power.
[Alex] If TV could make
his reputation...
it could also break him.
[foreboding music]
[Alex]Seven months after Putin became president,
a terrible underwater explosion ripped apart the Kursk,
a Russian nuclear submarine.
As the nation anxiously watched
the efforts to rescue
a few survivors...
Putin was photographed
hosting a barbecue
at the seaside resort.
For ten days,
relentless TV news reports
shredded Putin's reputation,
by chronicling the incompetence
and dishonesty
of the government.
To recover, Putin rushed to talk to the widows of the sailors.
But rather
than take responsibility,
he looked to administer blame
on television.
[Arkady] Putin, as somebody
who was both
born and bred
in the Soviet Union
but more importantly,
bred by the KGB,
has this very conspiratorial
view of the world.
And that view of the world
suggests that people don't have
any free will, um, and history,
therefore, doesn't have
any free will.
That everything is pre-planned,
plotted by somebody else.
So he immediately assumed
that this was a plot...
uh, to subvert him.
There was a very emotional,
I think, genuine outburst.
Vladimir Putin,
president of Russia.
What happened
with the submarine?
-Thank you, Mr. President.
-Thank you.
[Alex] Putin's command of
the media was quickly evident.
Even in the TV images of one
of the grieving relatives,
whose voice was silenced,
with eerie efficiency.
Putin and his people
have KGB background.
I'm talking about control.
What you don't control,
is a potential threat.
What you control is safe.
Everything should be controlled.
So those things they did
was to establish control,
over TV, because uncontrolled TV
was a threat.
[Alex]After the Kursk episode,
Putin's government took over
the two major TV networks
controlled by oligarchs.
Facing the prospect of prison,
Gusinsky and his chief executive Malashenko, fled the country.
Berezovsky soon followed.
[Martin] When Boris Berezovsky
fell out with Putin
in such a spectacular
and public way,
uh, he fled to London, and I had
quite lots to do with him.
He asked me
if I could write his...
biography for him.
So I spoke to him
over the years,
and you know, socially, and, uh,
at times, I recorded
the conversations as well.
[Berezovsky on recording]
...has led Putin after
the tragedy of
Kursk submarine, and the most...
During our meeting,
he told me that...
uh, I tried to destroy him.
After that... he's really
not good well.
At this time,
I need to see my friend...
-[Martin] Yes.
-[Boris] As a wronged man.
[Derk] You know,
he kicked Berezovsky out
to control of the first channel.
He kicked Gusinsky out
of the country,
and... to control of NTV.
He had the airwaves.
[fireworks popping]
Once he controlled
the narrative and the image,
which is everything in Russia,
uh, he could take then control
of the commanded hearts
of the economy,
the oil, uh, and take on
the biggest tycoon.
[Derk] Putin had a very
valid point.
Half of the parliament is on
the payroll of Khodorkovsky,
many of the top people
in the oil ministry
are people appointed
by the oligarchs.
And you think, you know,
"What is this?"
If I want to be a real president
I need to have my own people
and I need to get these people
out of politics.
[Alex] It was said at the time
that you were busy courting
or even buying influence
in the Duma.
[flame roars]
[Martin] Khodorkovsky invited
the head of Exxon mobile,
and said, "Look, my company
is open, transparent,
why don't we have a partnership?
We can be a massive player
on the world market."
If you are Vladimir Putin
sitting in the Kremlin,
at a time when...
the world is going to war
over oil,
and you have your
least favorite oligarch...
saying to the Americans,
"I've got lots of oil. Do you
want to come and share it?"
You know, it's like
a slap in the face.
[gloomy music]
[Alex] The struggle for power
surfaced with an oil deal.
Small company Northern Oil,
paid seven million dollars for the rights to an oil field.
Which had sold soon after,
for 600 million dollars.
to a government company,
The man at the center of the
deal was Igor Sechin,
a close friend
of Vladimir Putin.
Were kickbacks involved?
Khodorkovsky wanted to make
an issue of the deal
at an upcoming nationally
televised forum on corruption.
[tense music]
[Martin] Putin had asked
Russia's biggest businessmen
to a round table discussion
on television on the theme
on the theme of corruption.
Most of the guys who took part
had the wisdom to figure out
that it was a little bit
of a fig leaf.
[Martin] But Khodorkovsky,
he came
under the whole pile of slides
which reported that Russians
felt that corruption existed
at the highest levels
of government.
And they then got
into the discussion
what Khodorkovsky thought was a
dodgy deal.
[Alex] This Northern oil deal,
was Putin happy
that you mentioned it?
[Derk] You saw it from the
facial expression of Putin,
he was really, really angry.
Especially coming
from Khodorkovsky.
[Derk] There were all these
warning signs.
Many of his people
were arrested.
[Alex] It was hard for me
to understand
why Khodorkovsky was smiling
or how he could say
that what was happening
is standard practice.
Just four months after the TV battle with Putin,
the top security
official of Yukos,
Alexey Pichugin, was arrested
and tried in secret
in connection with the series
of contract killings.
Which would include the murder of Mayor Petukhov
That was strange,
because five years earlier,
the case have been dropped
when the likely killers,
two Chechen gangsters,
have been murdered.
Now the Kremlin was pushing
a fresh story.
The Chechens were replaced
with new killers
who suddenly confessed
and testified
that Pichugin ordered the hit.
When Pichugin refused
to implicate Khodorkovsky,
Pechugan claimed he was dosed
psychotropic drugs.
When that didn't work,
the new triggerman
claimed that the
order to kill the mayor
come from Pichugin's boss,
Leonid Nevzlin.
[indistinct chattering]
-[camera shutters clicking]
[reporter1] The richest man in Russia, Mikhail Khodorkovsky
seized at gunpoint
by Russian Special Forces.
[reporter 2]
Khodorkovsky is locked up
in an overcrowded
Russian prison.
[Alex] Did your
hunger strike succeed?
Was Lebedev
let out of the dungeon?
I remember calling my editor.
I said, "They just arrested
And the response
from London was,
"Well, it couldn't have happened
to a better man."
I don't want
to paint Khodorkovsky
as an angel if he wasn't.
But I was rather horrified
when I saw Vladimir Putin
holding a copy of my stories,
saying, "Look, even
the Western press outside,
he was a terrible man."
It was very clear that this is
not about finding the truth,
or finding what happened.
It was about
putting papers together,
so that it looks like
it's a real case.
But, in fact,
it's not a real case.
[Maria] As someone with a legal
background in Russia,
I had to try to interpret
and explain this
to American lawyers.
Khodorkovsky and Lebedev
were put in a cage
to show everyone
who is the boss here.
[Martin] Khodorkovsky
was accused
of tax evasion, embezzlement.
All these things.
But it's this
particularly hard to say
whether or not he's guilty.
Because the law was in such
a fluid state in those years.
All the other oligarchs did
exactly the same things.
And they were free
to keep doing it.
[Maria]During the first trial, the Russian attorneys
were trying to pretend like
they're defending
an ordinary case.
[Maria] The Russian
prosecutors think
the more papers
they put together,
the more it looks legitimate.
They wrote like hundreds
of volume of material
of basically nothing.
For example, the used company
telephone directory.
As an evidence
of the criminal enterprise.
[Maria] Yukos as a company
was accused of not paying taxes
for six years.
[Martin] Khodorkovsky was
discussing payment of back taxes
that would settle Yukos's
debts to the State.
And when Yukos agreed to that,
then another demand
would come in.
A new demand
will be higher this time.
So it wasn't a case of wanting
to recoup the taxes
that haven't been paid.
It was a case of wanting
to destroy Yukos.
[Maria] There was a bankruptcy auction.
And I was denied access to it
with no basic or any
legitimate reason.
[Alex] A mysterious,
newly-created company
Baikal Finance Group
suddenly emerged
to bid for Yukos.
But Baikal had no assets.
And its headquarters turned out to be a vodka bar.
Two hours outside of Moscow.
[audience laughs]
When Baikal won the auction,
it sold Yukos to the
government-controlled Rosneft.
Rosneft is the state
oil company,
and it is run by one of Putin's
closest friends,
Igor Sechin.
[Derk] Sechin was Putin's man.
And when Putin renationalized
a lot of companies,
he created a new clause.
Oligarch 2.0.
[Derk] In most countries
in the world,
oil companies are owned
by the state.
Nothing wrong with that.
Good news for the Russians.
You know? That's how 99 percent
of the people saw it.
[grandiose music]
The fact that the oligarchs
were so reviled and resented
by the Russian people
was a fantastically useful tool
for Putin.
[Martin] Putin very famously
and publicly declared
"I'm going to destroy
the oligarchs as a class."
And every Russian would know
where the quotation came from.
Because Stalin said
very famously,
"I'm going to destroy the rich,
peasants as a class."
And when he did bring
the oligarchs to heel,
it was incredibly popular.
[Arkady] What he says to
Khodorkovsky and to the country
is that nothing belongs you.
That you have
no legitimate rights to it.
We control everything and we can
take away everything from you
if you cross us.
[camera shutter clicking]
[light music]
[light music]
[Alex]Do you think that being in prison
gave you special insight to Putin and the people around him?
[reporter 3]Former oil tycoon,
Mikhail Khodorkovsky
who was jailed for embezzlement and tax evasion in 2003
is back in court.
New charges brought against him, could see his term extended
until 2017.
The second trial was announced
when Khodorkovsky was coming up
to the point
that he might get through.
It seems very clear,
Putin did not want him
to get through.
[Alex] The second trial was
a sequel in black comedy.
In the first trial,
the government convicted
for not paying taxes
on the oil HE sold.
In the second,
the government claimed he had
never sold the oil.
He'd stolen it.
But if he had stolen it,
where did he put it?
And if he never sold it,
why did he owe the taxes?
Is it not clear?
[grandiose music]
It's very important for me how
this trial will finish because
according to that, I'll know
which country in the end
my children will live in.
Putin is very afraid
of Khodorkovsky.
And he wants him
to be in the prison forever.
This is against Russia.
This is against Russia's future.
And it means that
this is not a country of law.
This is a country
of dictatorship.
[Arkady] When he was in jail,
he suddenly gained
through his stamina,
through his calm,
through his resolution
that moral authority
and respect of people.
I wouldn't say he has legitimacy
as a political figure.
But I think
the perception of him
made sort of a 180 degree turn.
I found my thrill
On blueberry hill
There was a period when Putin
because of the constitution
had to step down as president
and become prime minister.
And his colleague,
Dmitry Medvedev
became president.
There was a lot of talk
at that time
that perhaps Medvedev
might be a rival
power base to Putin's.
Turned out to be
completely incorrect.
Because at the end of Medvedev's
term as president,
he simply stepped down
and Putin came back into power.
My dream came true
The wind
In the willow played
Love's sweet melody
[Derk] Till 2008, I think
Russia was on the right track.
And Putin was okay.
Then Putin decided to become
more authoritarian.
He also decided that the country
could not live without him.
That's what power does to you.
You think you are the country,
and the country thinks
without Putin,
there is no Russia.
[Alex] More than
a 100 thousand protesters
flooded Moscow's
Bolotnaya Square
to protest Putin's return
to the presidency.
The protesters at least could
imagine Russia without Putin.
[Maria] The only way we could
potentially get him out of jail
is not through judicial system
in Russia.
But through some sort
of negotiations
involving Western leaders
putting pressure on Putin.
The host nation of Russia
is continuing
a well-timed release
of high profile prisoners.
[reporter 4] We see
a riot band member,
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova
has been freed
as part of president
Putin's amnesty.
[Maria] Putin really wanted
to see
Western leadership coming
to Sochi
and the pardon was his gesture
in anticipation of
gesture back
from the Western leaders.
[Alex] How did you find out that
you were going to be released?
[dramatic music]
[Maria] I haven't met him until
he was released from prison.
-We had some vodka.
-[Alex chuckles]
Um, it was really unreal.
[Maria] He was really thinking
what his next public step
in that fight should be.
And then he said that "I'm ready
to make the public move."
And he wanted to go to Kyiv.
[Alex] In Kyiv, hundreds
of thousands of demonstrators
demanded the government resign
for rejecting closer ties
with the EU
in favor of better relations
with Russia.
Demonstrators pulled back
under a hail of bullets fired
by government forces.
[cheers, applause]
[Alex] In 2014, Khodorkovsky
moved to London
and founded Open Russia.
An umbrella group that funds
anti-Putin efforts
and invests in long-range visions for democracy in Russia.
The money for Open Russia
comes from Khodorkovsky.
Somehow, even while serving
hard time in Siberia,
he or his friends managed to protect some of his fortune.
[Alex]While in Moscow, I spent a bit of time with Open Russia.
On the ground, their efforts
were less than effective.
Volunteers didn't have
strong enough glue
to paste up their posters.
And open Russia teleconferences
in which Khodorkovsky beamed
himself into Moscow
only attracted the interest of
a few dozen supporters.
[Igor] Khodorkovsky is not
a forgotten figure.
But you can't touch him
so he becomes more and more
TV image.
Okay, not TV,
he's not shown on TV.
Computer generated image, okay?
And it's not good, of course...
-for a politician....
-[Alex] Virtual Khodorkovsky.
Virtual Khodorkovsky. Exactly.
[Derk] Being outside of Russia,
he really cannot
influence situations here.
He wants to be Jesus Christ,
but, you know, he has a past.
[Alex] Over time, complicated
stories become more simple.
Shades of gray separate in the pools of black and white.
That simplicity can
serve a political purpose.
In 1998,
there were many suspects
in the brutal killing
of Mayor Luzhkov.
From Chechen gangsters,
to Mayor's wife.
Today in Nefteyugansk,
there is only one.
[Arkady] Khodorkovsky's story
marks the beginning of a journey
which ultimately will result
in violence.
And this is where we are today.
Where violence
is the only truth.
At your disposal for resolving
social contradictions
or political conflicts.
[Alex] In England,
over the past 15 years,
there have been a growing
number of mysterious deaths
related to Russia.
Khodokovsky's lawyer was killed in a helicopter crash.
The anti-Putin Russian spy,
Alexander Litvinenko
was poisoned to death.
Six months after
he delivered an affidavit,
the Russian's Secret Services
have paid for the murder of the mayor of Nefteyugansk
Boris Berezovsky was found dead.
His neck suspended by his own
cashmere scarf.
But the coroner
was unable to conclude
whether the hanging was
a suicide or a murder.
Berezovsky became
consumed by this obsession
that he was gonna
bring down Putin
from London.
I would be very sad
if Khodorkovsky went
the same way Berezovsky did.
I mean your life may be
at risk in London.
[Alex] Did you have
a conversation with your wife
about continuing to speak out?
[light music]
[Vladimir] I can't speak
of Russia too much.
One of the top Kremlin
political aids,
uh, said publicly, "There's
no Russia without Putin."
End of quote.
Probably the most insulting
thing I've ever heard said
about my country.
[Alex] Vladimir Kara-Murza
is a former journalist
and anti-Putin
political warrior.
He was close to John McCain
who asked him to be among those who carried his coffin.
Kara-Murza was poisoned twice
while on assignment
for Khodorkovsky and Russia.
He played a key role in passing the Magnitsky act
which sanctions
certain Russian individuals
for human rights abuses.
Kara-Murza now works
with Khodorkovsky
to provide research
and offer advice
to those considering sanctions
on members
of Putin's inner circle.
[Maria] We do have a new project
of Open Russia called Dossier.
It takes the
investigative journalist
down in Russia or outside
of Russia and builds on that.
[Alex]A key focus is the circle of new oligarchs
surrounding Putin.
One of them
is Yevgeny Prigozhin,
nicknamed Putin's chef.
Following a recipe
of covert ops,
the chef cooks up missions
for Putin all over the world.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller
accused Prigozhin
of launching cyberattacks
during the 2016
presidential election.
Others accused him
of running off-the-books
military operations
from Ukraine to Africa.
When Khodorkovsky funded
a group of journalists
to look into the matter,
they were murdered.
Reportedly by people working
for the chef..
[Alex] Back in Russia,
state-controlled TV
turns the story upside down,
blaming Khodorkovsky
for not doing more
to protect the journalists.
Open Russia also helped
to expose a plot
to kill a Russian double agent
in Salisbury, England.
The attack deployed a military chemical weapon
which badly poisoned two people
and killed
an innocent bystander.
Two members of the
assassination team
were spotted by British
surveillance cameras
and traced back through their
driver's licenses
to the GRU.
Russian military intelligence.
With a perfume bottle
full of Novichok,
a deadly nerve agent,
they travelled to Salisbury
on the day of the attack
and then fled quickly
back to Russia.
[Arkady] That interview
was sort of a double message
saying, nothing is true.
And of course we're lying.
And two fingers up to the West.
But we're still doing it.
And it's okay to lie.
It's negation of facts
and negation of truth.
Negation of reality.
[Alex] What kind of campaign
is Sobchak running?
Have you met her?
And what do you think of her?
How's the campaign going?
-Smooth as it can be.
-I understand.
Miss Sobchak just advises me
to take part in her campaign.
[Igor] She's doing things
which make her a very few
friends in the Krem,
When there's a fence,
we should understand,
that all we see
all this so-called campaign
is a, is a criminal game.
[Alex] After years in prison,
Khodorkovsky had learned
how to play the long game.
During the run
of election theater,
he wasn't trying to
He was offering support to a
number of political actors
who could amplify democratic
principles over time.
[Alex] Khodorkovsky wanted
to speak by proxy
to a younger generation
and be ready
for Russia after Putin.
They don't watch so much TV.
They surf the web, a domain the State is either been unwilling
or unable to control.
One web warrior, Alexei Navalny
is supported by Khodorkovsky.
Navalny is banned from TV
or running for office.
But he can get
more than 20 million views
on his YouTube channel.
[Alex] Why do you think
that Putin finds you
so dangerous or threatening?
[Alex] During election season,
there is a march in honor
of Boris Nemtsov,
an opposition politician
who'd been murdered
by mysterious gunmen
in front of the Kremlin.
Just a few days before he was
to release evidence
of Russia's involvement
in violence in Ukraine.
[Alex] Preparations in
government rules for the march
made it more protest theater
than protest.
Only certain signs were allowed.
And the tiny contention
from Open Russia
is not permitted to bring along it's posters.
[Alex] All the politicians
showed up in the bitter cold.
[Alex] Ksenia Sobchak's family
history haunted her campaign.
Her father was the mayor
of St. Petersburg
who first hired Putin.
Many believe Ksenia is a secret agent of the Kremlin.
Maybe even Putin's goddaughter.
In Russia, where visions of the future are blocked
by an unchanging present
under Putin,
conversations turn quickly
to the past.
Putin looks back
to days of empire
and wants to make Russia
great again.
Russian liberals are nostalgic
for the democratic freedoms
of the 90s.
But it's hard for them to argue in favor of the time
when a handful of men
control the economy
and so many lived
in fear of hunger,
violence, and economic chaos.
In such a past,
wouldn't most people settle for a present under Vladimir Putin?
[Alex] In Russia's
election theater,
everyone knows
how the story will end.
Some actors play along and
others improvise off a script.
But for now,
outside of the big cities,
audiences seem happy enough
with the fairytale
promoted by Putin.
[Alex]And far off Krasnokamensk
where Khodorkovsky spent so many years in prison, election
theater has the folksy flair of a high school musical.
Everyone roots
for a happy ending.
In a story scripted by the self-appointed man of the moment
who claims to have saved them
from the villains of the past.
[Alex] After Putin's next term,
can you imagine
that he will step down?
Or do you think he will just
keep going forever?
Who knows?
-Russia! Russia! Russia!
-Russia! Russia! Russia!
[Derk] Putin is now 18 years
in power.
He has this group of friends
around him
who are now feverously rich
and of course
they don't wanna see him go.
Their whole wealth
comes only from him.
It's very hard
to get out of this.
[Alex] What do you think is
Putin's worst nightmare?
[Alex] I wondered how
Khodorkovsky could think
that Putin was weak or fearful.
After all, on the struggle
between the two men,
Khodorkovsky had lost.
But while in prison,
Khodorkovsky learned
that you can sometimes win
when you're willing
to lose everything.
The darker the night,
the brighter the stars.