An interesting situation is being formed around the so-called "letter of the fifty", or the "letter of intelligentsia." Fifty Russian celebrities supposedly signed the letter in 2005 demanding prosecution for then-Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Radio Liberty is currently conducting an action, in which employees of the radio station try to reach the signatories by phone. As it turns out, the celebrities refuse from their signatures. However, the version of the radio station does not withstand any criticism.
The letter was published in the Izvestia newspaper for publicity purposes in 2005. The letter was signed by such well-known public figures as Georgy Grechko (cosmonaut), Alexander Kalyagin (actor), Stanislav Govorukhin (film director), Anastasia Volochkova (ballerina), Valentin Yudashkin (fashion designer), Alina Kabayeva (rhythmical gymnast), Alexander Rozenbaum (singer) and many other well-known public figures.
It has been reported today, more than five years later, that the signatories of the "letter of the fifty" "supported the first sentence to the former CEO of Yukos, Mikhail Khodorkovsky," that they "justified the first sentence to Khodorkovsky," etc.
As a matter of fact, the authors of the letter admitted the imperfection of the legal system of the country. They also wrote that the discussion of one separate litigation was not supposed to discredit the entire court system, the state and the society, nor should it cast doubts on the basis of law and order in the country.
"Those, who constantly speak of injustice, - do they try to defend the rights of defendants? Or do they pursue other interest, if they can afford to ignore the fact that tax evasion in Russia, as in any other normal country, is considered one of the most serious acts of violation of law?"
"Those, who accuse the system of justice of being prejudicial, shall not be considered as professional legal experts, whose assessments could be regarded as authoritative," the letter also said.
In 2011, ex-ballerina of Russia's Bolshoi Theater Anastasia Volochkova became the first person to have revoked her signature from the letter. The notorious ballerina also opened her personal blog and stated that she would only say the truth on her website. Posting her nude photo session was the first thing that she did for the blog.
Afterwards, Volochkova stated that she was quitting the ruling United Russia party. In her recent interview with Liberty (Svoboda) radio station, Volochkova used foul language in finding epithets for the party. She said that it was a "f*****" and "s*****" political organization. The glamorous lady "unexpectedly" recollected the letter, which she signed five years ago because she had been tricked into it, she stated.
Volochkova's statements pushed the radio station towards the start of the above-mentioned action. The station decided to ask questions to those people, who publicly justified the first sentence to Mikhail Khodorkovsky five years ago. Soviet actress Svetlana Svetlichnaya, surgeon Leo Bokeria, Soviet artist Vladimir Zeldin, historian and writer Anton Antonov-Ovseyenko and other prominent cultural activists have already revoked their signatures.
Svetlana Svetlichnaya told the radio station that she did not "remember herself taking part in those games." Leo Bokeria said that he "had not signed anything against Khodorkovsky." He only signed the letter advocating independence of the court system. Vladimir Zeldin claimed that he "could not sign any letter," whereas Anton Antonov-Ovseyenko, who is turning 90 this year, said that he had signed the letter to express his sympathies to Khodorkovsky as a person.
Five years have passed since the time when the letter was written. If they call a person and tell them that they had signed a letter to support Khodorkovsky's sentence, what would a person think in the first place? First off, the person would think that it goes about some recent letter related to the second criminal case against Khodorkovsky. Even if he or she is told that it all happened five years ago, they may stumble at the though that they had signed the letter indeed. All the more so, the letter was about the court system, about the severity of such an offense as tax evasion. The letter was not about the people's support of the sentence.
Several of the polled signatories stated that they remembered the letter. They said that they were not going to refuse from their signatures. Painter Nikas Safronov said that he "never rejects either his friends or his words."Actor and film director Boris Tokarev claimed that if he signs something, he never refuses from what he does." Actor Alexander Kalyagin stated: "As Americans say, nothing is certain except death and taxes. You can try everyone and see for yourself. Indeed, a tax crime is considered the most hideous crime in one's biography in America."