Dissident Oligarch Khodorkovsky Calls Russia “Mafia State”

Russia had been taken over by a “mafia”, oligarch-turned-dissident exile Mikhail Khodorkovsky said as he appeared in Venice for the launch of Alex Gibney’s Citizen K documentary, Politico reported.

The former oil tycoon now lives in exile in Britain and has become one of Putin’s most prominent critics.

“Today Russia is not just an authoritarian state, it is a state that has been taken over by the mafia,” Khodorkovsky told a news conference on Saturday ahead of the screening of Citizen K in Venice, the film festival’s biggest documentary so far.

The film was described by one critic as a “scalding portrait” of the country under Vladimir Putin. Gibney, known for his meticulous non-fiction films including Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and Taxi to the Dark Side, turns a journalistic eye on the complex and contradictory figure of Khodorkovsky for his latest film to examine “how power works in Russia”.

The film is a portrait of the shadow dance of wealth and influence in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union, tracing Putin’s two-decade grip on power.

It follows the story of Khodorkovsky, once one of the country’s richest men, who was jailed in 2003 and spent a decade in a Siberian prison for tax evasion after clashing with Putin.

It has had an enthusiastic reception, with David Rooney of Hollywood Reporter calling it a “lucidly accessible account of post-Soviet Russia’s lurching transition out of communism into a free-market economy that became a Wild West of gangster capitalism” and a “scalding portrait of Putin’s Russia”.

The U.S. director described his film as a “cautionary tale” for other democracies, adding that “Americans are somehow haunted by Russia” in the wake of the 2016 elections.