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Kaliningrad Analysis, Mironov Criticized, Swiss Fine Concerns Kremlin

Thousands rally in Kaliningrad on January 30
Thousands rally in Kaliningrad on January 30

Will Kaliningrad Become Russia’s Gdansk?

President Dmitry Medvedev has sent representatives to Kaliningrad to meet with representatives of the opposition parties that organized the mass protest there on January 30.

Ilya Yashin, a leader of the Solidarity opposition movement, speaks to RFE/RL about the protest, which he says was probably the largest in Russia since 2001. Yashin says that what was planned as a protest against the specific policies of the regional administration rapidly turned into a demonstration against the Kremlin and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in particular.

Yashin attaches importance to the fact that the protest was in Russia’s most western region and draws parallels with the Solidarity movement in Poland. “The people understand full well that Boos [the governor of the region] is in his post not by the will of the Kaliningraders but by the will of the Kremlin… and people understand full well that the Kremlin, and Vladimir Putin, who abolished gubernatorial elections, are personally fully responsible for what is happening in the region,” he says.

[read in Russian]

United Russia Calls For Mironov's Dismissal

Ruling party United Russia has called for Sergei Mironov to be removed from his post as speaker of the Federation Council -- the upper house of parliament -- following his criticism on national television of Vladimir Putin’s economic policies.

Mironov tells RFE/RL that he is amazed by the “hysterical reaction” to his comments, adding that he has criticized the government’s economic policies on previous occasions with similar language, and he voted against the current budget.

"Several high-ranking leaders of United Russia are following closely in the steps of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union… if they had their way, they would have formed an [NKVD] troika long ago and would be executing people left, right and center,” he says.

[read in Russian]

Kremlin Stands Up For Vekselberg

Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin has expressed concern about a $38 million fine imposed by Swiss authorities on the Renova company, which is connected to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg. Kudrin said that the ruling could damage Russian-Swiss relations.

A Swiss court ruled that when Renova and the Austrian firm Victory bought the company Oerlikon, they breached the law by failing to register as a group.

Financial analyst Andrei Sotnik says that there is no evidence that the fined companies are Russian interests, because they are owned by trusts registered in various tax havens. If there are Russian interests involved, he adds, “It would be appropriate for Mr. Kudrin to clearly explain on what basis Russian assets ended up in offshore companies and how exactly they got there, evading the Russian budget.”

[read in Russian]