© Kate Belyavskaya

This is an artist's impression of the second trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Once Russia's richest man and a potential opponent of then president Vladimir Putin, his imprisonment six years ago could now be extended until well after 2035. To publicise the event, almost 40 Russian artists filed into court to compete in illustrating the case.

Before his arrest, Khodorkovsky was potentially Putin's most powerful challenger. At the head of Russia's biggest oil producer Yukos, his influence was impressive. But when the Kremlin produced evidence of fraud and tax evasion in 2003, the oligarch was immediately detained, sentenced two years later, and in 2006, his company declared bankrupt. In March 2007 a second trial against him began after the Kremlin claimed to have found new evidence, this time proving embezzlement and money laundering. Originally it was thought he would be released in 2011. This new trial however, could see him sentenced to 27 more years in prison. 

The case is a highly controversial subject in Russia, labelled by Khodorkovsky himself as absurd, and believed by 60 percent of Russians to be controlled by the "highest Russian authorities" rather than the court. Considered a good example of the "displaced" duties of the modern Russian court, a group of human rights activists from the Andrey Sakharov Museum teamed up with the Sergey Kuznetsov Content Group in inviting artists to draw the proceedings and submit their entries to an online competition. The results will be announced tomorrow (September 15).

“A unique opportunity”


One of the state prosecutors.

The defendants, the "berets" and the case. The woman says "I feel so sorry for them!"

Court drawings provide a unique opportunity to see people behaving in a tough situation. It's good for modern artists to go out and see what's going on in the real world." 

“An example of how absurd and ridiculous the times we live in are”

Khodorkovsky, his former business partner Platon A. Lebedev (also accused) and their lawyer Elena Liptser (as said in text).   

Khodorkovsky's father.

State prosecutors eating in the canteen.

Along with another artist I often cover court proceedings as an art project. I also went to the trial of the Forbidden Art exhibition - another example of how absurd and ridiculous the times we live in are."

“The actors of this play had been chosen on purpose”


State prosecutors.

I believe that Khodorkovsky's case is a farce; a case of personal revenge for a high-ranking loser who wanted to get rid of a strong and powerful man; an example of the authorities being fearful of civic society. The more I drew [the proceedings], the more I felt that the actors of this play had been chosen on purpose. It looked like a good movie."