Secret diplomacy in Khodorkovsky case

Mikhail Khodorkovsky thanked the German Chancellor for the assistance in securing his release from prison. It was reported that a crucial role in the negotiations was played by former German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher who negotiated through secret diplomatic channels established by "Andropov's people" under Leonid Brezhnev. What was the true role of Genscher? Pravda.Ru talked to Alexander Rahr, a party to the events, to find out.

Political scientist Alexander Rahr who participated in the events as an interpreter and consultant told about the special role of Germany in the release of Mikhail Khodorkovsky to Russian media. He stated that Hans Dietrich Genscher, former Foreign Minister (1974-1992) and Deputy Federal Chancellor of Germany acted as a mediator from Germany in the process of Mikhail Khodorkovsky's release. Genscher was born and raised in East Germany, and served as foreign minister in the most intense years of the history of the relations between the USSR and Germany. After his triumphant unification of Germany he resigned, but his popularity in Germany and respect in Russia are undeniable.

"Over the past two years, Mr. Genscher hosted Vladimir Putin twice. There were negotiations with other representatives of the Russian government, but I cannot name them. Mr. Genscher took his mission very seriously and carefully prepared for the meetings. Everyone knows that one cannot come to an agreement with the Russian authorities through pushing and screaming," Rahr told Gazeta.Ru.     

The German media has specified that the first meeting was held in June 2012 in Berlin's Tegel Airport, during Putin's visit to Germany, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) wrote. The second meeting was held in Moscow. FAZ added that the pilots of private aircraft on which Khodorkovsky arrived last Friday from St. Petersburg to Berlin received permission to enter Russia without visas. The Cessna plane is owned by entrepreneur Ulrich Bettermann, Genscher's friend. This confirms Rahr's words that German "secret diplomacy" represented by Hans Dietrich Genscher has actively participated in Khodorkovsky's release. "The negotiations about the release of Mr. Khodorkovsky were conducted by Hans-Dietrich Genscher, one of the most influential people in Germany, through secret channels set up back in the 1960s. These channels are now working well," said Rahr.

What kind of secret diplomatic channels are we talking about? "This channel was organized in Germany in the 1960s by Andropov (KGB chairman in 1967 - 1982) through his people, when Willy Brandt was in power in Germany and we had Leonid Brezhnev," told Pravda.Ru Pavel Podlesny, head of the Russian-US relations at the Institute of USA and Canada. "Then many issues of the relations between the USSR and Germany were solved through this channel. It allowed discussing all issues directly without any bureaucratic obstacles. Andrei Gromyko, former foreign minister, was initially offended, and said that he was against the parallel foreign policy, but Brezhnev told him to calm down and establish a normal working relationship with Andropov," said the expert.

"The task at hand was to normalize the relations with Germany, and two people were found to implement it, one was a journalist, and the other one was a KGB agent. They set up this channel through Egon Bahr who was Secretary of State under Brandt." The expert said that the channel was still working under the next Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, however Podlesny did not know whether it was operational now. If it is operational, then I believe, it worked for Khodorkovsky under the following formula: he is going to live in Germany, will not be back in Russia, will not interfere, and will not be engaged in politics," summed up Podlesny.

Alexander Rahr said that many Western politicians asked Vladimir Putin to release Khodorkovsky, but only the Germans were successful. Putin has respect for this nation, he is fluent in German and in 1985-1990 worked as intelligence undercover in the GDR, so personal involvement is not ruled out.  

"We do not have special relationship with the Germans, they are widespread and trusting. I don't think that Putin listened to someone when making a decision about this pardon, including the Germans. He simply had to remove an irritant in our relations with the West. This step shows that Putin is afraid neither of Khodorkovsky no other people who could be his competition," Podlesny commented for Pravda.Ru.

"The role of secret diplomacy is exaggerated," believes Dmitry Danilov, Head of the Department for European Security with the Institute of Europe. Many aspects influenced the president's decision, including image and political ones, but it is difficult to say which factor was critical," Danilov told Pravda.Ru.

If so, then what was Genscher's special role? The German media wrote that he persuaded Putin not to include the recognition of Khodorkovsky's guilt in the petition for pardon. Alexander Rahr agreed with this statement.  

Lyuba Lulko


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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov