Fast Chat: Yuri Schmidt, Yukos Lawyer

A crisis-stricken Kremlin is courting Western investors, and activists hope this may lead to the release of high-profile political prisoners, like the Yukos Oil executives. (Last month, a terminally-ill Yukos man was allowed the option of dying at home.) Anna Nemtsova spoke to lawyer Yuri Schmidt about the likelihood of a pardon for Yukos oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky:

Would the release of Khodorkovsky be a positive sign for Western investors that Russia is becoming a rule-of-law state?
Many political leaders said publicly to Putin and Medvedev that such [a] decision would be welcomed by the West.

Are there signs that Medvedev will treat this case differently?
Unfortunately, I do not see any signs of change … It was not Medvedev who put Khodorkovsky in jail, it was not he who destroyed Yukos—that was done on Putin's direct order, or at least with Putin's personal approval. Either Medvedev has no power to remove the curse, and stop obvious human-rights violations, or he does not care.

Would Khodorkovsky ' s release be seen as a threat by Moscow?
He doesn't have the financial power he used to have to compete with the Kremlin. [But] Moscow is afraid of two things: that Khodorkovsky might become an opposition leader, or demand his money back.