A police officer in Novorossiisk posts videos
on the Internet alleging widespread police malfeasance and corruption.
Prosecutor General Yury Chaika announces
that 22 criminal cases have been opened in connection with the activities of the mammoth state corporation Russian Technologies.
What do these two events that made headlines in Russia this past week have in common?
Each appears to weaken -- or could be interpreted as an attempt to weaken -- a key member of the "siloviki" clan of security service veterans that have dominated Russian politics for the past decade.
There has been a lot of debate and speculation about whether Police Major Aleksei Dymovsky
acted of his own volition or was working at the behest of somebody in high places when he posted three videos to the Internet blowing the whistle on how Russian law-enforcement routinely fabricate criminal cases.
But there is no doubt that Dymovsky's You Tube broadside against his superiors has touched a nerve in Russian society and put Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev on the spot.
More than two-thirds of Russians already tell pollsters that they do not trust the police. The Interior Ministry is still reeling from a series of corruption scandals in the regions and from a Moscow police officer's shooting rampage at a Moscow supermarket in April. Adding to the woes, two more police officers have come forward
with videos making similar allegations to those made by Dymovsky.
The criminal cases involving Russian Technologies are the result of an ongoing campaign
by President Dmitry Medvedev to rein in state corporations as a whole.
The state corporations -- Russian Technologies, the bank VEB, the nanotechnology firm Rosnano, the nuclear agency Rosatom, the Olympic construction firm Olympstroi, the Housing Maintenance Fund, and the Deposit Insurance Agency -- were supposed to form the backbone of Putin's authoritarian modernization of Russia's economy.
They were given access to massive funds, were allowed to operate with little oversight, and were exempt from disclosure requirements.
But Medvedev and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin see the state corporations as a drain on the economy
and are trying to bring them to heel.
In August, Medvedev ordered Chaika to start an investigation into the state corporations with the first target being Russian Technologies, which is headed by the powerful former KGB officer Sergei Chemezov.
Both Nurgaliyev and Chemezov are part of the siloviki clan and both are close allies of its informal leader, Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin.
As we have blogged here
, a recent report by Stratfor.com
claims that Russia's power elite is currently divided into two main clans.
Sechin's clan, the so-called siloviki, is comprised mainly of officials with either KGB pasts or connections.
In addition to Nurgaliyev and Chemezov, it includes figures like Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, and Kremlin Chief of Staff Sergei Naryshkin.
The siloviki clan's main rival is one led by Deputy Kremlin Chief of Staff Vladislav Surkov and it includes officials like Prosecutor-General Chaika, Gazprom CEO Aleksei Miller, and Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu.
According to Stratfor.com, Surkov has teamed up with Kudrin and other technocrats like Sperbank head German Gref and Economics Minister Elvira Nabiullina in an effort to weaken Sechin.
Specifically, Surkov wants to use the economic reforms proposed by Kudring and Co. and Medvedev's anti-corruption campaign to purge Sechin and his allies from the commanding heights of the Russian economy.
The campaign against state corporations is widely seen as being a part of this effort. It is not yet clear whether Dymovsky's broadside against the Interior Ministry over police corruption is as well -- but I would not rule it out.
But what is clear is that Sechin's clan suffered a blow this week. We'll be watching closely for a counterpunch.
-- Brian Whitmore