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on 4 June 2010
Mr Khodorkovsky, the protagonist of the book, is a difficult and controversial man. Not, however, an impression you would get from this work of Martin Sixsmith, who has little but praise to pile upon the well-known oligarch. Truly, the man is intelligent, as well as enterprising -- he is also ruthless, has relied extensively on political clout as well as physical coercion, and all his movements towards openness and democracy have been accompanied by statements that "I'm doing it because it's profitable". One can, just about, discern these characteristics behind Sixsmith's prose, but only if one knows where to look. For an unprepared reader this will be a narration of a struggle between good and evil, plain and simple: the positive qualities of Khodorkovsky and his team are reiterated again and again, inconvenient facts, as well as facts that indicate that Khodorkovsky's success maybe isn't the result ONLY of his personal brilliance are mentioned only in passing. The page count gives some of the picture: a 100 pages are accorded to the growth of Menatep and acquisition of Yukos, to 18 years of Khodorkovsky's active and complicated business life and 200 pages to the 5 years following his arrest in 2003.

Truly, the man has suffered, unjustly, at the hands of a cruel, insecure and greedy regime, and its leaders. This should not lead one to make him into a saint, which in his early years he was clearly not. Read Sixsmith as a spin-master's laudation of a sympathetic businessman, but do not rely on it for a balanced factual account. Not that you are in much of a danger of such a mistake: the characteristic style of the prose makes the genre of the book quite clear.
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on 16 November 2013
Martin Sixsmith's book is a hard-hitting and well-constructed account of a story I know better than some, having worked for YUKOS in Moscow and then London for four years from June 2001. I joined to help expand YUKOS's oil-sector investments outside Russia as a means of portfolio diversification; my first assignment was to visit Beijing as part of the team negotiating the initial parameters of what was to have been the pipeline from Western Siberia to China. We were all enthusiastic about building a top-class multinational company run according to international best practice; I was not the only one who put substantial savings into company stock. After two exhilarating years it was heart-rending to observe the relentless onslaught on Russia's most successful company, as Sixsmith so deftly tells it from the outside and a posteriori.

I was fully aware of the structure of YUKOS' and GML's capital structure and the use of tax-efficient jurisdictions like the Russian export zone in Mordovia. All every bit as legal as the thriving maquiladoras on the US-Mexican border. We had a Price Waterhouse executive sitting in-house with us who was supposed to ensure that everything we did was squeaky-clean. That is why I find the dastardly betrayal of trust by PWC so galling, even though it saved their business position in the country. Or the collusion by Deutsche Bank and others in organising the IPO of Rosneft, a blatant packaging of illegally seized assets. Not to mention the haste with which the offering was snatched up by companies such as BP who would not like to have their own hard-won position in the country auctioned off in a travesty of "market practice".

A sad tale, well told. One wonders if the real criminals will ever face justice in turn?
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on 4 April 2012
Sixsmith's book clearly could have done with further editing and streamlining, especially as regards the chronology of the Yukos affair. The book is coy when it comes to overall argument, but my guess is that Sixsmith wanted to keep his options open, take a detached approach and not 'do a Masha Gessen' right away. On a highly controversial topic as this, however, the reader will want to be led to the bottom of things.

Many of the interviews seem to be meandering into nowhere-land. Some of them are way more important than others, and this hierarchy should have been made clearer. There is also a lack of critical distance to the material. Simply letting one opinion stand against another is not admissible. I also wish Sixsmith had made a little more use of the academic literature, providing context on newly emerged concepts that are now a staple in the way Russia is discussed, such as the dual state, "re-nationalisation", "korpokratura", corporate raiding and property rights in Russia. The Yukos affair is indeed the major watershed in Russia's post-Soviet history, but one will not know why after having read this book.

On the positive side one should say that Sixsmith set himself an almost impossible task: explaining the YUKOS affair to a general readership. Noone fully understands the murky underbelly of Russian politics and business of which Khodorkovsky was such an integral part. Credit should therefore go to Sixsmith for his courage in bringing this case back into the limelight. In a way, the sometimes confused nature of the book is but an adequate metaphor for the confusion that is Russia today. I must also say that there is a lot of new material in this book of which I had little to no idea (I have been reading on this case for the last five years). One example of this is Aleksandr Litvinenko's contact with Leonid Nevzlin - concerning the murder of the mayor of Nefteyugansk - a few months before his death. That made reading the book well worth my time.

We will continue to hear from Mr Khodorkovsky (that is, if he survives his time in prison and is not retried a second time); that's why this is an important book - that be should read in conjunction with Richard Sakwa's 'The Quality of Freedom'.
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on 30 April 2010
This is a great book by Martin Sixsmith for those who are, and have always been, intrigued by Russia and it's oligarchs. How did the oligarchs acquire such enormous wealth ? why did Yukos (once Russia's biggest company) collapse and vanish ? why have some oligarchs settled in Britain ?

It's not just "Putin's Oil" we have in this book, it's much, much more. Sixsmith provides a superb insight into the machinations of the Kremlin and the stellar rise from virtually nothing of the head of Yukos - Mikhail Khordokosvky - whose burning ambitions led to his eventual downfall. And for those who never quite understood why Putin is still in power - you will, when you read this book.
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on 15 January 2012
This book is about the power struggle between two strong-minded compatriots of Russia. Martin Sixsmith has written an excellent account of the " New Era" in Russia, beginning with the leadership of Boris Yeltsin and the arrival of the free market economy. It also explains the handing over Russia's natural resources to an elite group called the "Oligarchs".
M Sixsmith clearly describes what followed the Yeltsin era; the corruption (which in fact never ceased), debauchery, anti-semitism, greed, lawlessness and the so-called " Cowboy Capitalism". With all the pros and cons of Michail Khodorkovsky's imprisonment, M Sixsmith leaves the reader to draw his/her own conclusions. The book probably makes more interesting reading for those who experienced totalitarian ideologies first hand.
This book requires a lot of concentration. Don't expect an easy holiday read!
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on 3 August 2010
I bought this book because I was interested in the subject. Buying it was a mistake which I regret - it is the opposite of the cliche "I could not put it down." The book is designed in chapters that appear to have been written at different times with no reference to other chapters - thus repetition particularly in the first 170 pages is both long winded, frequent and boring. The last 140 pages is marginally more intersting than the first 170 pages because that's when the story picks up.

This book needs an editor, none appears to have been used, to remove the over use of adjectives and adverbs and to get the writer to concentrate on his story/subject not immaterial details e.g. the style and shape of a judges glasses - who cares?.
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on 16 February 2012
The reason I bought this book was because I have been intrigued by Mikhail Kodorkovski's story for some time and I found this book a really interesting insight into the whole Yukos affair. Once I started the book, I could not put it down as the author had thoroughly researched the topic and I thought it was written really really well.
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on 23 March 2010
This book relates the story of an honourable man, and how it came about that he was defeated and lost everything because he was hated and feared by the leader of a major world power who personally subverted the supreme authority of the state to overcome him. Yukos was once Russia's largest, best managed, most productive and successful oil company. Its destruction, and the prosecution and imprisonment of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, together with other Yukos executives, constituted the most flagrant abuse of authority by a Russian president since, at least, the treatment of dissidents and the banishment of Sakharov in 1980.

Driven from the start by President Vladimir Putin, the prosecution's motivations were Putin's personal animosity towards Khodorkovsky, and his fear that Russia was losing its control over its most important natural resource - oil. This was an assault of such intensity that it could be described as a personal vendetta. It seems to have had its origins in a televised meeting with President Putin in February 2003, during which Khodorkovsky described a recent purchase of an oil extraction facility by the state oil company for which a suspiciously high price had been paid. The inference was that "the excess payment had gone into the pockets of Putin and his Kremlin cronies" in an instance of corruption at the very heart of the Russian state. This meeting was the trigger for the assault on Yukos later that year. In exposing the corruption at the apex of the Russian political hierarchy Khodorkovsky had initiated a fight he would not be able to win.

The second politically-motivated trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev on newly invented charges is now approaching its end. No one believes its purpose is other than to find the accused guilty in order to ensure that they remain in prison, thereby compounding the injustice done to them at their first trial. The implausible charges against Khodorkovsky and Lebedev in the present trial include the theft of all the oil produced by Yukos in a six-year period. This is an inherently absurd accusation: if the oil had been stolen, Yukos could not have been the most profitable oil company in Russia and the country's largest tax-payer which, according to its reputably audited accounts, it was.

There is one possible surprise outcome: use of the presidential pardon. Remembering the decision by President Gorbachev to free Academician Andrei Sakharov from internal exile in 1986, could President Medvedev show that he possesses the necessary qualities to take a similarly courageous initiative? We can only hope that he does.
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on 28 April 2016
Great condition, great story
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