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The Daily Vertical: Office Politics, Kremlin-Style (Transcript)


The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

So, does anybody remember Andrei Belyaninov?

Sure you do. His name was all over the Russian news back in July.

He was the head of Russia's Federal Customs Agency who resigned in disgrace after agents from the Investigative Committee raided his home and office in connection with an alcohol-smuggling case.

Investigators found approximately $400,000, 300,000 euros, and 10 million rubles stacked in shoe boxes in his home.

There were also priceless antiques, expensive works of art, and an indoor pool.

And all that opulence was humiliatingly broadcast on state television.

At the time the raid was shocking because Belyaninov -- who served with Putin in the KGB and has known the Kremlin leader for decades -- was widely seen as untouchable.

Well, guess what? It turns out he was.

Because after that big show, Belyaninov was never charged with anything.

And this week, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev gave him a nice new job, appointing him head of the Eurasian Development Bank.

Now we've of course seen this movie before. A powerful official takes an apparent fall, only to find a nice soft landing.

Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, for example, was sacked amid a corruption investigation back in 2012 -- only to be appointed to a high post in the state corporation Rostec just a few years later.

Now, what this illustrates is that corruption investigations in Russia could be about a lot of things.

They could be the result of power plays, power struggles, and clan warfare.

They could be retribution for political disloyalty.

They could be a Potemkin show for the public.

But what they rarely, if ever, are about is fighting corruption.

Call it office politics, Kremlin-style.

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