Jailed Khodorkovsky Says Love for Dogs Only Crack in Putin's `Icy Armor'

Jailed former Yukos Oil Co. owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky wished Prime Minister Vladimir Putin kindness and tolerance and said he pitied a man who felt only love for dogs.

“Love for dogs is the only sincere, kind feeling, breaking through the icy armor worn by the national symbol of the early 2000s,” Khodorkovsky wrote in an article published by Nezavisimaya Gazeta today. “A man in such an armor cannot be happy.”

Khodorkovsky, already serving an eight-year term on charges of tax evasion, awaits the verdict in a second trial on related charges that may add six years to his sentence. During Putin’s presidency, Yukos, once Russia’s largest company by market value, was bankrupted under $30 billion of tax claims and sold off in pieces.

Khodorkovsky has called the case against him retribution for his political opposition to Putin. Speaking in his annual call-in show with the nation on Dec. 16, Putin said that “a thief should sit in jail,” referring to Khodorkovsky’s conviction in his first trial for fraud.

Putin, 58, described as an “alpha dog” in U.S. embassy cables posted by WikiLeaks.org, is often shown on state television as an action man in close proximity to animals including whales, tigers and bears.

Putin was asked in his annual call-in show in December last year whether he is happier in the presence of animals than his ministers.

‘Acute Problems’

“I believe the Prussian King Frederick the Great once said: ‘The better I know people, the more I like dogs,’” Putin answered. “I simply love all animals and use my current position to help solve some especially acute problems.”

In the call-in show last week, Putin said when asked about his new dog Buffy: “He is a very nice fellow and I love him very much.”

Passing on his New Year’s wishes, Khodorkovsky said that he wished for Putin that “people did not fear him but loved him. Perhaps not everyone, but sincerely and selflessly. Not just dogs.”

Khodorkovsky lamented the vertical command structure Putin has built over the last decade.

“It is clear that he is incapable of tearing himself away from the unwieldy oar of the monstrous slave galley he has built,” Khodorkovsky said. “A galley which indifferently moves over people’s fate, a galley with a black pirate flag waving more and more often at Russian citizens.”

Putin said in February 2008 that he had worked “like a galley slave” during his eight years as president.

The court will begin reading the verdict Dec. 27 and may take two weeks, according to Khodorkovsky lawyers.

Maxim Dbar, a spokesman for his defense team, confirmed by phone today that the article was written by Khodorkovsky.

To contact the reporters on this story: Lyubov Pronina in Moscow at lpronina@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Willy Morris at wmorris@bloomberg.net

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