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The Power Vertical

Kudrin In The Crosshairs?

Russian Financial Minister Aleksei Kudrin
Russian Financial Minister Aleksei Kudrin
Investigative Committee chief Aleksandr Bastrykin last week accused top officials in the Finance Ministry of embezzling $18 million.

On February 13, Bastrykin announced that an investigation into Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak and former Deputy Finance Minister Vadim Volkov is "nearing completion and the case will soon be sent to court."

Both are accused with embezzlement in relation to an agreement to settle Russia's debt to Algeria. Storchak was released in October pending trial after spending nearly a year in prison. Volkov is still in custody.

The case has long been viewed as part of a battle between the security service veterans, or "siloviki" surrounding Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the technocrats in the Finance Ministry. That fight is intensifying as Russia's economic crisis deepens, and members of the government's "economic bloc" edge closer politically to President Dmitry Medvedev.

Writing in the online magazine "Yezhednevni zhurnal" today, Maksim Blant suggests that the siloviki are setting up Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin as a scapegoat who will take the blame for the Russia's economic woes:

Particularly after the Yukos case, there is no doubt that the General-Prosecutor's Office is in the habit of carrying out politically motivated prosecutions on behalf of the siloviki. But it is also obvious that Bastrykhin and those ordering this case aren't really interested in Storchak and Volkov. The main target is Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin.

In Russia, prime ministers traditionally take the fall for economic crises. But Putin, of course, is no ordinary prime minister. Having Kudrin as a scapegoat, the logic goes, lets Putin off the hook.

The question remains, however, whether Putin will allow Kudrin to take the fall. The two are believed to be very close, having worked together since the early 1990s when both served in the St. Petersburg local government. Kudrin is rumored to be one of the few officials allowed to use the familiar "ty" form with Putin when the two speak privately (although, as with most rumors of this type, this is nearly impossible to confirm).

It is unclear whether such closeness to Russia's "national leader" will be enough to save Kudrin from what appears to be an impending attack from the siloviki.

-- Brian Whitmore

Tags: storchak,bastrykin,volkov,Vladimir Putin,medvedev,Russia

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by: La Russophobe from: USA
February 17, 2009 20:02
This issue is a bit more complicated, in two respects.<br /><br />First, the concept of &quot;saving&quot; Kudrin is not necessarily limited to preventing him from being ousted from his position but should also include putting him in prison to silence any opposition he might make once removed from power, the same tactic that was recently used against Mikhail Kasyanov.<br /><br /><br />Second, to blame Kudrin would be to imply that Medvedev would not be blamed. After all, Putin and not Medvedev put Kudrin in power, so blaming Kudrin is to come extent blaming Putin, although Kudrin is also associated to some extent with the evil of &quot;liberalism&quot; and therefore an attack on him is in some sense killing two birds with one stone. <br /><br />But if Medvedev is not blamed, then there is less excuse for Putin to return to power. Still, Kudrin could be viewed as an obstacle to Putin's return as &quot;president for life&quot; because he is associated with liberalism. So what would make sense would be for Putin to simply purge Kudrin, accusing him of corruption, and blame the economic collapse on Medvedev. That would accomplish all his objectives simultaneously.

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The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It covers emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or

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