As the media world is fixated on Putin’s allegedly stashed $2 billion, the not-named-Putin Russians in the leaked documents comprise of siloviki, chinovniki, parliamentarians, governors and their families. They include:
- Dmitri Peskov, Putin’s Press Secretary
- Suleiman Geremeev, Senator from Chechnya and uncle of Ruslan Geremeev, the main suspect in ordering the assassination of Boris Nemtsov
- Viktor Zvargelskii, Duma Deputy United Russia
- Mikhail Slipenchuk, Duma Deputy United Russia
- Aleksandr Babakov, Duma Deputy United Russia
- Andrei Turchak, Governor of Pskov
- Boris Dubrovskii, Governor of Chelyabinsk
- Igor Zubov, Deputy Minster of the Ministry of Internal Affairs
- Aleksandr Makhonov, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Internal Affairs
- Maksim Liksutov, Vice-Mayor of Moscow
- Nikolai Patrushev, National Security Council Secretary
- Aleksei Yliukaev, Minister of Economic Development
- Ivan Maliushin, Deputy Head of the Department of Presidential Affairs
You can find a rundown of all their offshore and shell company connections and more in Novaya gazeta’s Panama Papers investigation “Offshore. Uncovered.”
And no one in Russia is under any illusion that these revelations will gain any political, let alone legal traction. No Russian law enforcement body has said a single word about intending to look into these documents. It’s just business as usual. Those in the Western press having their “Gotcha!” moment might as well be saying it in the mirror. Even the Vedomosti editorial board is blasé about the big revelations:
In Russia, offshore companies are first and foremost as a means of protection and for the concealment of property. In the West they are to avoid paying taxes, while we hide ownership. First, it’s more convenient to do business through offshore companies. Second, many of our businesses are linked in some way to the state—either through money or participants—in ways that aren’t always legal.
Our “state official-owners” can’t imagine the existence of something both beneficial for the state and detrimental to the authorities. It’s impossible for them to say that we ourselves will now take taxes from ourselves and we ourselves will punish ourselves. Therefore, we have to say that there is nothing new in these documents, and that it is a hit against the president. In a way, this is the honest truth.
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By Sean — 7 years ago
Just in case you thought the Kashin Affair was going away, think again. And the story isn’t about the police investigation into who beat the Kommersant reporter half to death last November, though Dimitry Medvedev assured the world last Thursday that progress was being made in the case. I’m sure most, including myself, were resigned to the fact that Kashin’s attackers would never be caught.
The real story concerns the feud between Kashin and Rosmolodezh chief and Nashi founder Vasili Yakemenko. Kashin has been indirectly pointing the finger at Yakemenko for his beat down for months. Kashin’s theory gained new currency this week when media critic Alexander Morozov wrote that investigators are convinced the attackers are followers of Yakemenko, but can’t move forward without political sanction. In response Kashin reiterated his certainty of Yakemenko’s connection. “I have no doubt,” he wrote, “in the “Yakemenko” version, and I have no other versions.”
Or in the words of Alexander Sannikov, Nashi’s lawyer:
Oleg Kashin is much more popular not for his beating at the hands of unknown assailants last fall, than for his articles. Therefore, the story has died down, Kashin has once again decided to throw fuel on the fire, and spread lies about the alleged participation of Vasili Yakemenko in what happened. His statements about Yakemenko, which, I remind you, don’t even pertain to the investigation, and defame an innocent person. In our view, such fabrications are impermissible. Therefore Vasili Yakemenko is going to take it to court and win this case.
Another lawsuit!? Yes another in a long litigious line. The lawsuit has become a favorite weapon of Yakemenko and his Nashists to wield against their enemies. In September 2010, Yakemenko and his brother Boris won 150,000 rubles from Novaya gazeta and Ekho Moskvy, only to have the ruling rescinded in December. In November 2010, Yakemenko filed a suit against Public Chamber member Marat Gelman for suggesting he was behind Kashin’s beating, and planned suits against Yulia Latynina and Boris Nemtsov. These are only the most recent. As the head of Nashi, Yakemenko first got his legal groove on in 2006 when he sued Gazeta.ru for 100,000 rubles for slander.
Nashi has continued the precedent Yakemenko set five years ago. In the last few years Nashi has filed suits against Alexander Podrabinek, Evgenii Albats, Boris Nemtsov (more than once), Garry Kasparov, Ekho Moskvy, Kommersant, Novaya gazeta, Gazeta.ru and even the French newspapers Le Monde and Le Journal du Dimanche, Germany’s Frankfurter Rundschau, and Britain’s The Independent. Hell, even the Mishki, Nashi children’s group auxilitary, sued Radio Svoboda in 2008 to defend its honor. Nashi’s record has been mixed. It’s won some, lost some, and had few thrown out of court. United Russia’s Molodaya Gvardiia utilizes the same tactic.
One thing is clear from all this litigiousness. The number of lawsuits Yakemenko and Nashi have filed to defend their honor is in inverse proportion to the amount of honor they actually possess. But everyone knows that these suits aren’t about honor anyway. It’s about politics. I don’t think that Yakemenko & Co. really take these legal moves seriously. These lawsuits are just irritants, and by now are part of the tit-for-tat political game among Russia lesser political denizens.
I’m sure knowing this, Kashin is taking Yakemenko’s salvo against him as one big joke.
And why wouldn’t he? Kashin’s nemesis is currently smack-dab in the middle of his own scandal. An investigative committee in the city of Naberezhnye Chelny in Tatarstan confirmed that Yakemenko was indeed connected to the company Akbars and the notorious “Area 29” gang in the 1990s. Yakemenko’s connections to Akbars and the gang “29 Group” were first reported by Vedomosti back in November. The “29 Group” was known for chopping off the heads and hands of local traders and was responsible for at least fourteen murders between 1993 and 2001. In 2006, 32 members of the “29 Group” were convicted for those murders and a number of other crimes.
During the investigation into Yakemenko’s connection to the company, Nail Nuriakhmetov, a member of “ 29 Group” gang and co-founder of Akbars, confirmed that Yakemenko worked for the company and had connections with its founders, but stopped short of saying what exactly the head of Rosmolodezh did there. What is clear is that according to records filed in 1994, Yakemenko, along with four others, owned 18.69 stake in the company. Yakemenko’s press secretary claimed that the founders of Akbars illegal used his passport when they registered the company. Oh, yes, of course, that’s what happened. So much for Yakemenko being a model for youth.
This isn’t the first scandal Yakemenko has been embroiled in the last few months, the most defamatory of which was his alleged affair with a sixteen year old girl named Anastasia Korchevskaya at camp Seliger in 2008.
Russia being Russia, the land where, according to many, nothing happens by coincidence, suggests that Yakemenko’s connection to Akbars resurfaced (spurred by request by Ilya Yashin, who has been so kind as to supply scans of the relevant investigative materials on his blog) might have a larger subtext. Political analyst Aleksi Makarkin told Nezavisimaya gazeta, “The mere fact that someone was questioned in this affair and the results of the investigation appeared on the Internet indicates a serious bureaucratic struggle.” There might be some truth to this if you consider last November’s tift between Arkady Dvorkovich and Yakemenko over the latter’s proposal to institute physical fitness in schools and universities as having substance. Dvorkovich called Yakemenko’s idea a “nightmare,” sparking a mini-drama in the media. It’s hard to say since it’s always assumed that there is a struggle behind the scenes whenever the dirty deeds of a Kremlin official comes to light.
But if there is some truth to this, Kashin is the last thing Yakemenko should be worried about. That is of course this latest lawsuit is a way to conveniently divert attention away from his alleged criminal past.
Oleg Kashin was on Ekho Moskvy’s Osoboe mnenie and was asked about Yakemenko’s legal actions.
Tatiana Felgengauer: But all the same, today I shall ask you to talk about your various roles. For starters, we see Oleg Kashin as a newsmaker. The issue is that today Vasilii Yakemenko is planning on filing a suit against you for spreading defamatory information. Why is the head of the Federal Agency of Youth Affairs going after you in this way?
Oleg Kashin: The story is this. I have not received any kind of subpoena and I can’t say anymore. But colleagues at Interfax, who are also following this affair, confirmed today that he did not issue a suit today. And I think, I will add, that he will never issue it. Because we already witnessed how he already promised to issue one against Marat Gelman in November, but there is no trial and no lawsuit. And for me, I don’t think he generally wants to go to court, his people don’t want to go to court, and bring evidence because that phrase “I don’t doubt the Yakemenko version”, well, he would have to prove in court, that I defamed him, and for all intents and purposes that I doubt the theory.Post Views: 280
By Sean — 7 years ago
I often tell my students that Russian politics is a zero sum game. You’re either in or you’re out. One’s political patronage begins and ends with one’s institutional authority. Without the ability to dole out favors, and more importantly protect your clients, you’re nothing in the world of Russian politics. Zip, ziltch, nada, nichego.
There’s no meaningful tradition of a Russian elder statesmen. There is no custom of ex-politicians having a visibly influential hand in politics. There are no Bill Clintons and no Henry Kissingers. And certainly no Richard Nixons. Once a powerful Russian politician retires, or what happens more often, is forced out, the sun sets on their power. It’s an old Russian practice dating back to Muscovy when Grand Princes had to sideline rival boyar clans, placate them through compromise, or for those who didn’t fall into line, simply exile or have them slaughtered. Remember when Peter the Great threw his half-sister Sophia into a convent and exiled her co-conspirator Vasily Golitsyn to the north. Or have the conspirators in the Tsykler plot executed over the exhumed corpse of Ivan Miroslavsky, the head of his stepmother Maria’s clan, and had their blood “sprinkled on the dead carcass which in some places was rotten and consumed.” Peter was good with the symbolism. And punishment was often collective. As the 1649 Law Code stated: “If someone commits treason, and after him survive a father, or mother, or brothers, or uncles, or any other member of his clan in the Muscovite state…conduct a rigorous investigation…If it is established conclusively that they knew about the treason of that traitor, punish them with death.” Interestingly, the same principle was applied during Stalin’s terror.
In the Soviet period, the way to get rid of a rival was to physically annihilate him. Remember Leon Trotsky, Nikolai Bukharin, Lev Kamenev, and Grigory Zinoviev. Khrushchev’s secret speech in 1956 changed the calculus. Rivals were no longer physically annihilated, only politically, and were allowed to live out their lives quietly. Remember Vlacheslav Molotov, Lazar Kaganovich, Georgi Malenkov, and Nikita Khrushchev. Old Molotov spent his final years in the main reading room of the Lenin Library working on his memoirs and appealing the Politburo to get his Party card back.
This zero sum game appears to have ramped up since the collapse of communism. Some even say that the Russian elite has reverted back to its feudal past and readopted the “Muscovite model” of rule. Whether Russia continues to be a feudal society is a matter of debate. It can’t be denied, however, that Putin’s presidency and Medvedev’s succession have maintained a stable oligarchy in power not seen since the 1930s. Putin’s only revision to post-communist “feudalism” is the notion of the Tandem, which thus far has maintained political stability between liberal and conservative elite factions. Still, it had to purge the major political players from the 1990s from the halls of state power to get to this point. The current oligarchy’s rivals are either dead, driven into exile, in prison, blackballed and besmirched, or, if they’re lucky, left to peacefully live in political obscurity, as long as they keep to themselves. It’s not difficult for those in power to maintain this tradition. Since many Russian power brokers gained and maintained their power through nefarious means, once they lose their position, they immediately become vulnerable. It’s not just because they no longer have the privilege of the office to hide behind. It’s also because the loss of position means being deprived of the clients who gave a patron his power in the first place. Given this, it is no surprise that investigations of theft, corruption and fraud emerge after a broker’s fall. It is because of this naked vulnerability that I believe Putin will be around for a long time. Not on account of his love for power per se, but because he doesn’t like prison or exile.
Still, why does the zero sum politics remain? My theory has to do with elite class consciousness, particularly in the old Marxist adage about a class in and for itself. Russia’s elite is a class in itself, but it has yet to become a class for itself. Meaning, the Russian ruling elite has yet to realize that it doesn’t have to cannibalize itself to maintain power. All it has to do is recognize its corporate class interests and see their rivals as essentially all part of the same gang. There can still be factions and low level conflicts, but these never seek to completely destroy a rival.
There is no better recent example of this zero sum game than ex-Moscow mayor and former major political player, Yuri Luzhkov. Luzhkov was the last of the Mandarins from the 1990s. It’s amazing that he held on as long as he did. But eventually he did fall, and what initially appeared as soft landing has now turned into a full speed head-on into the pavement. At first, Luzhkov didn’t understand the rules of the game, which is surprising since he’s been at it so long. A mere week after his firing, like so many before him, Luzhkov declared himself a “democrat” and vowed to continue in politics. That venture was short-lived because at the same time the ex-mayor was manufacturing his democratic credentials, he was also desperately trying to find an EU country willing to give him residency. Their response: Yuri go screw yourself.
The charges of mass theft, particularly on the part of his construction mogul wife, Elena Baturnia, are coming to fruition. Two weeks ago, a Moscow city audit accused Luzhkov of embezzling almost $8 billion during his tenure as mayor. The Ministry of Interior has been investigating his wife for embezzling $440 million through her company Inteko (my guess is that they’ve been keeping documents on them for a long time).
Well, the chickens have finally come home to roost as masked Interior Robocops raided Baturnia’s company. The Moscow News describes the tangled web of theft as follows:
The prosecutor’s eye is homing in on a deal in 2009, when Bank of Moscow lent 12.76 billion roubles to Premier Estate. The company was created three months before the deal, Interfax reported.
The little known company used the funds to buy a 58 hectare plot of land from Inteko for 13 billion roubles, although its charter capital was just 10,000.
The transaction took place three weeks after Moscow City Duma approved a 14.99 billion rouble transfer from city coffers to Bank Moskvy, Kommersant reported.
By selling the land, as well as some shares in Sperbank, Rosneft and Gazprom, Baturina reaped 27 billion roubles. Of this, 18 billion went to pay off debts, to Gazprombank and other creditors.
But it wasn’t just the company that benefited. “The money, received as a loan from Bank of Moscow and worth around 13 billion roubles, was transferred into the personal account of Elena Baturina,” the British Home Office’s press service told Kommersant.
Baturina’s brother says that she’s already fled the country. You’re damn right she did. Apparently, the whole Luzhkov family is stewing in Britain. No matter, the Russian authorities have no problem trying fallen oligarchs in absentia.
Others of his clan are going down too. Lukhkov’s metro boss, Dmitry Gayev, will soon find himself charged with embezzling $3.8 million. Gazeta.ru is reporting that his former head of sport has been sacked by Sobyanin. And Luzhkov’s vice mayor, Vladimir Resin, is rumored to resign in the coming days. Whether they will be investigated too remains to be seen.
The purge of Luzhkov’s people is heating up. And with that the survivors in the zero sum game begin another trot around the board.
Image: RIA NovostiPost Views: 398
By Sean — 10 years ago
Stock markets around the world continue to fall despite the Bush Administration’s preemptive strike before the New York Exchange opened on Tuesday. The Federal Reserve tried its own version of shock and awe as it cut interest rates a “dramatic” 0.75 percent. The monetary defibrillator worked for a bit. The New York Exchange didn’t dive as much as expected. The Dow shaved off only 1.5 percent of its value. Few however believe that the rate cut will do much to plug Recession’s bullet holes. According to the Financial Times, economists at Davos are unconvinced the monetary shock will “succeed in boosting a sickly US economy.” Stephen Roach of Morgan Stanley called the Bush response “a dangerous and reckless and irresponsible way to run the world economy”. One can’t help note the irony when the free marketeers cry to the State for help in managing a floundering economy.
Back in Russia, the Fed’s jolt sent markets on a “rollercoaster ride.” The RTS dove 5.8 percent, climbed back to the black by afternoon, but then dipped again before closing. The net loss was 1.6 percent for the day. The MICEX was in the next car. It too rode the market’s wave. It dropped 8.7 percent, but climbed to end with a net loss of 1.1 percent.
Russian investors are not worried. They see Russia’s economy as still too detached from “Western woes.” Maybe. Considering that Russia’s economy is based on the high rates of oil and gas consumption in Asia and Europe, one has to wonder if dives in those regions will eventually hit Russia down the road. The fact that Russian markets fell with the rest of the world must worry some. So much so that Finance Minster and Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Kudrin made a point to speak up at Davos and reassure the world of Russia’s stability. “In the past few years Russia has managed to achieve economic stability piling up substantial international reserves, which play the role of an airbag. I believe Russia will soon be the focus of attention as a haven of stability.” A survey cited by the FT suggests that 73 percent of Russian CEOs agree and are fully confident that 2008 will bring growth in revenue. This is compared to 36 percent of American CEOs, 31 percent of Japanese, 43 percent of British, and 28 percent of French. Only CEOs in China (73 percent) and Brazil (63 percent) join their Russian counterparts in having a positive outlook for 2008. Well, we are only 23 days into the year. We still have a lot of time to see if that confidence pans out.
It’s true, as some have pointed out, that Russia doesn’t have many of the features of the current global economic slide. It doesn’t have much of a financial system, no widespread mortgage system, very little by way of a credit system. Yet, Russia’s so-called detachment from the global economy has failed to shield it from global economic slumps of the past. Russian economic “detachment” didn’t save it from the pinches of the global economic crises of the 1870s, 1890s, and 1970s. It was only during Stalin’s tripartite “Revolution from Above” did Russia escape the pangs of global economic slide.
The question now is where will Russia present economy be when all is said and done. And so the waiting game begins.Post Views: 215