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Prosecutor Turns Russia's Trial of Century Into a Yawner

For all the focus on details, details may not matter much. More than a dozen years after the end of the Soviet Union, Russian judges still find defendants guilty 99.2 percent of the time, official figures show. No one in the courtroom, least of all Khodorkovsky, seems to believe he will be among the 0.8 percent.

Khodorkovsky has passed the days with little apparent interest, often reading a book or chatting with Lebedev. A few weeks ago, he was intently poring over "Russia Under the Old Regime," the Richard Pipes study of the development of authoritarianism and the roots of the police state in Russia. Lately, he has turned to lighter fare, particularly the detective novels of Boris Akunin.


Even tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, in the defendant's cage, has not shown much interest in the trial. (Mikhail Metzel -- AP)

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Khodorkovsky, 41, is slight-framed man and in the courtroom cage seems especially small, slumped over in a black shirt and bluejeans. His face is pale, his graying hair shorn close to the scalp.

He is rarely roused enough to interject himself into the proceedings. But one day when Shokhin read aloud an article from one publication, Khodorkovsky finally cut in. "That article, just like many other articles, is full of inaccuracies," he complained.

Lebedev, 44, appearing sickly and wearing a gray tracksuit, spends most of his time doing crossword puzzles and sipping soured milk called prostokvasha. But he's more prone than his co-defendant to spring to his feet to insert his views. "In some cases he presents materials that can't possibly be called documents," Lebedev objected one day in response to something Shokhin had read.

Shokhin is trying to prove that Khodorkovsky and Lebedev cheated the state by dodging taxes and rigging the 1994 auction of a state fertilizer company. But the documents he has read aloud have covered a wide spectrum of subjects.

Volume 11 included a color copy of Lebedev's passport, his marriage certificate and the birth certificates of his two children. (Lebedev complained that it was an old, invalid passport.) Other documents detailed plans by Khodorkovsky's oil company, Yukos, to buy or lease a private jet. Another included a plan for a swimming pool at a company facility. Yet another discussed the purchase of Alpine trees for a reception hall.

Defense attorneys follow along on their laptop computers, on which they view scanned copies of the documents. Lawyer Anton Drel habitually chews gum. The lawyers appeared to find Khodorkovsky's income tax forms fascinating when the subject turned to them, but were less enthralled with Shokhin's history lesson on the discovery of phosphate in the Murmansk region, where the fertilizer firm was located.

Relief seemed to loom Tuesday when Shokhin closed Volume 227 and announced that he had finished reading the Khodorkovsky evidence. Then Shokhin called for the Lebedev volumes and began reading all over again, never mind that they were essentially the same documents.

An exasperated Lebedev lashed out. The court had already heard some documents about Khodorkovsky at least twice, he said. "And now we shall hear them again? Some reasonable order has to be established. It's okay one time, okay two times. But more?"

He sat down. The judges said nothing. Shokhin smiled a bit, then plowed into Volume 140.

The hours wore on. The documents sounded familiar. Then Shokhin abruptly closed Volume 23 and announced that he was done. "I believe the prosecution has presented enough evidence and we can proceed to the next stage, the questioning of witnesses."

Around the courtroom, people came suddenly awake.


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