23 minutes | Mar 9th 2020

3. The Man Who Challenged Putin

By 2003 Yukos was a success story, but Putin’s premiership was not going so well. He’d failed to deal competently with the Kursk submarine disaster, and then the Moscow Theatre siege ended in a bloodbath.

Putin decides that he needs to stamp his authority and does so buy summoning the most powerful businessmen – the oligarchs – to a meeting and tells them he’ll stay out of their business if they stay out of politics. At the same time Mikhail Khodorkovsky is looking to expand Yukos further, but feels that he’s held back by the corruption in the Russian economy.

In a televised meeting Khodorkovsky confronts Putin and informs him that, according to a survey, 80% of of the population in Russia think the majority of Russian officials are corrupt; and 25% of the Russian population think that all the Russian officials are corrupt including Putin himself.

After the confrontation it didn’t look good for Khodorkovsky. He feared he’d be targeted by Putin and his fears were not unfounded. On October 25th 2003, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia’s richest man, was arrested at gun point on his private jet.

Swedish economist Anders Aslund and Mikhail Khodorkosky recount the story, along with Professor Tim Snyder and Anne Applebaum.

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