An armored Mercedes in Moscow speeds down a busy highway and smashes into another car. The two women in the unfortunate car are killed. The police blame them and, by all appearances, hasten to cover up the evidence (RFE/RL’s story of the accident and the public outcry around it is here in English; Russian Service coverage is here).
But who was in the speeding car with the flashing blue light? It was Anatoly Barkov, a vice president of Russia’s LUKoil. Barkov was reportedly treated for minor injuries from the February 25 accident; his driver was not injured. According to Interfax, Barkov told journalists as he was leaving the hospital that he “is no less interested than others in seeing that the circumstances of the tragedy we were involved in are investigated objectively and without bias.”
And who is Anatoly Barkov?
To be honest, there isn’t a lot of information at this point, although hopefully more will emerge in coming days. According to his official biography on the LUKoil site, he was born in 1948. But apparently he wasn’t much of an achiever because he didn’t manage to graduate from the Ufa Oil Institute until 1992. In fact, according to his official biography, he didn’t manage to do anything in the first 44 years of his life. Or maybe he was doing something he can’t really talk about. Too bad Russia never did any serious lustration of just who was working in the KGB, because if it had, people wouldn’t have reasonable grounds to suspect that that’s exactly where Barkov was working. Some people might also suspect that he was sent into the oil industry for some unknown reason.
He is listed on LUKoil’s site as serving as “vice president in charge of general questions and corporate security and communications” since 1993, a pretty darned good gig for a guy whose college diploma hadn't dried yet.
LUKoil’s website proudly proclaims that it is “the second-largest private oil and gas company in the world in terms of proven reserves.” The site also describes the firm as “one of the largest international, vertically integrated oil and gas companies.” For some reason, the "vertically integrated" part caught my eye.
Other senior executives of this “private” company also apparently had wild, reckless youths that they prefer not to mention. First Vice President for Business and Finance Sergei Kukura apparently could not get a job until 1992, when he was 39. The head of the company’s legal department, Ivan Maslyayev, graduated from Moscow State University’s law school in 1980 and found employment in 1992. And so on.
Interestingly, the Russian version of “Forbes” last week published excerpts from the memoirs of Lennart Dahlgren, who was the first general director of IKEA in Russia. He gives a lot of interesting insight into what it was like doing business under Putin, including this bit:
One of the leftovers from the old Soviet system that has lasted to the present day is the various types of spies working for the FSB and infiltrating all major businesses. This is part of everyday life, completely ordinary and in most cases completely harmless. During my years in Russia, IKEA security service informed me more than once about such people.
All this reminded me of a recent outraged op-ed in “The New York Times” by “Russian entrepreneur and investor” Vladimir Antonov. He wrote with great pathos that “it is obvious that European business has a strong prejudices [sic] against investors from Russia. There is a fear of Russia itself, of the increase of the influence of Russian businesses in the international market place.”
After trying to argue that “the interests of Europe and the United States obviously do not coincide when it comes to crisis investments,” Antonov concludes that “maybe it would be fairer to trust Russian business. Maybe national prejudices can be abandoned for good. Otherwise, European countries and brands will become victims of their own narrow-mindedness as Russian capital finds new, more progressive markets.”
Antonov is a strange spokesman for the bright new face of Russian business, as this “Financial Times” article makes clear, saying “the main concern [about him] was alleged ties between Mr. Antonov and organized crime.” Antonov dismisses the reports as “false horror stories,” but if you’d like to read a bunch of them (in Russian), you can find them here.
Getting back to the main point, would anyone who knew Anatoly Barkov in, say, 1988, please drop me a line?
-- Robert Coalson