On March 26, the Federal Security Service (FSB) detained former Russian minister Mikhail Abyzov. The Investigative Committee accuses Abyzov of organizing a criminal group and, together with other individuals, embezzling 4 billion rubles ($62 million) from two energy companies supplying electricity to the Novosibirsk region in Siberia.
Abyzov, 46, was minister for open government affairs in Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s cabinet until 2018. He was tasked with coordinating cooperation between the government and representatives of civil society and the business community. During his time in office, he was criticized for “sabotaging” government intiatives. Besides this, Abyzov was named the richest member of the 2012-2018 cabinet with a net worth that had grown to $600 million.
Abyzov is accused of founding and running the criminal group in the period between April 2011 and November 2014 and embezzling money from the Novosibirsk-based Siberian Energy Company and Regional Electric Grid.
“The co-conspirators’ unlawful actions placed the stable economic development and energy security of several regions of the country under threat,” Investigative Committee’s Svetlana Petrenko stressed on March 26 commenting on the detention.
Abyzov faces up to 20 years in prison under the charges, which he denies, according to his lawyer. On March 27, a Moscow court ordered Abyzov to be held in pre-trial detention for two months.
Data about large-scale corruption schemes and embezzlement of money in Russian energy companies circulated earlier. Often these reports were described not as rumors, but as a kind of “unofficial approved schemes” of money withdrawal. Another open secret is that these schemes as well as other major corruption schemes are linked to members of the so-called “liberal part” of the modern Russian elite. These persons are affiliated with teams of such political strongmen as Anatoly Chubais, Dmitry Medvedev, Alexei Kudrin and others. They are incorporated in the world financial elite and in fact represent its interests in the territory of Russia.
It is interesting to note that many businessmen point out the following aspect of the corrupt economy: bribes to officials linked to so-called “siloviki” are often two times lower than to “liberals”.
A large-scale anti-corruption campaign has been ongoing in Russia for a second year in a row. Additionally, there is a campaign against top criminal leaders, who appeared to be also linked to the “liberal part” of the Russian governing.
Former economy minister Alexei Ulyukaev was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2017 for demanding a bribe from Rosneft chief executive Igor Sechin.
Oligarch Ziyavudin Magomedov, a friend of former Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, is awaiting trial on similar racketeering charges.
Former Deputy Minister of Energy Vyacheslav Kravchenko was detained in January. He’s suspected of fraud committed by an organized group or on a large scale.
To get a more detailed look at the current situation, one should check people, who defend the detained corrupt officials.
For example, the following persons publicly supported Abyzov:
- Anatoly Chubais, the architect of the privatisation drive and schock reforms, which in fact destroyed the Russian economy after the collapse of the USSR.
- Arkady Dvorkovich, a hard-core pro-liberal economist with pro-Western views. He has been holding various government and government-linked posts since the 1990s. In the period from 2012 to 2018, he was the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia.
- Alexander Voloshin, one of the most infamous characters of the 1990s. He was an assistant to the chief, a deputy chief and the Chief of the Russian presidential administration under Boris Yeltsin. In this period, he created a wide corruption network within the Russian government. His behavior was widely covered by multiple monographs of the witnesses, including former ministers of Yeltsin’s government, like Mikhail Poltoranin, who was the minister of information and later the deputy prime minister for the sphere of the press and news. Yevgeny Primakov, who served as Prime Minister of Russia from 1998 to 1999, and became one of the few politicians not involved in corruption scandals, criticized Poltoranin in own remarks.
- Natalya Timakova, a former press secretary of Medvedev, and a deputy chief of Vnesheconombank. She is a well-known pro-western official, who, according to some reports, is responsible for coordination of liberal opposition media.
- Chulpan Khamatova, a film, theater and TV actress, who recently found herself involved in a media scandal over a leaked video from Mikhail Gorbachev’s birthday. In the video, she is prising Gorbachev for actions, which then led to the destruction of the USSR.
At a first glance, it could look that the Putin regime is purging liberals, oppressing freedom of speech, freedom of enterprise and other freedoms. This point of view is especially popular in mainstream media outlets. However, if one takes a more detailed look at the “oppressed” persons, he will find that they and their supporters are just using the “democracy-style” rhetoric in order to avoid a fair criminal prosecution. Therefore, high-sounding words are just a tool to defend criminals.
Another question is why Putin and his circle have so far allowed open enemies of the strong Russian state to hold key posts in the government bodies.