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Putin At War With Yeltsin's Team

An attack against Yukos's CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky will deprive Russia of foreign investments

Latest political news from Russia remind one of detective stories: they arrest "werewolf policemen" that have allegedly set up a criminal group right in the Moscow Criminal Investigation department, detain security department chief of the Russian EMERCOM in his office, they detect "werewolf border guards" that have helped wanted people to leave Russia. Finally, they have recently arrested one of the co-owners of the Russian oil giant Yukos, chairman of Menatep Board of Directors, Platon Lebedev. The latest event, accompanied with serious accusations against other people connected with the oil company, is apparently an action taken against one of the largest Russian businessmen Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Yukos's CEO. This event is especially important against the background of the recent historic merger between two large oil companies - Yukos (chaired by Khodorkovsky) and Sibneft (chaired by Roman Abramovich).

It is rather hard to try to understand anything about the series of arrests. Probably, they have something to do with the pre-election campaign. Some Russian observers say, the event with policemen of the Moscow Criminal Investigation department was meant to increase the dropping rating of the United Russia party, whose chairman Boris Gryzlov is also the Russian Interior Minister. However, the EMERCOM general is the most important figure on the case of "werewolf policemen." Another EMERCOM general, Russian Hero and United Russia co-chairman Sergey Shoygu appeared in news reports several hours before the Russian Office of the Prosecutor General brought charged against General Vladimir Ganeyev. Sergey Shoygu was on a business trip abroad. He said that the policemen's guilt would be determined by the court, "one should not throw shade on the entire department just because of several suspects." To put it in a nutshell, Sergey Shoygu is not happy with those events. It is rumored that the two ministers - Sergey Shoygu and Boris Gryzlov are in conflict relations with each other. Gryzlov has already rejected the rumor, but Shoygu has said nothing about it.

These details give a reason for a different point of view on the things happening in Russian law-enforcement bodies. Other Russian political parties - opponents to Shoygu and Gryzlov - think that the events are directly connected with United Russia's pre-election race: the party wants to show it to the electorate that they are fighting with corruption. Even if it is true, it is a mistake, because all people are aware of the corruption in law-enforcement bodies. The news of several arrested policemen is most likely perceived as mockery. In addition to it, a pre-election campaign is not likely to be successful, if two political leaders - Gryzlov and Shoygu have different positions. Boris Gryzlov is definitely satisfied with the arrests, whereas Sergey Shoygu is urging everyone to form their opinion after the court's decision. This does not seem to be a targeted pre-election race.

A person in charge of Russian law-enforcement bodies is a very important issue indeed. The chief of the EMERCOM security service, General Vladimir Ganeyev is the prime figure among the arrested police officers. The chief of the security department of the Russian Interior Ministry, Konstantin Romodanovsky, is the central figure among the people, who arrested the officers. Ganeyev is very close to Sergey Shoygu, and Romodanovsky is a FSB general close to Vladimir Putin - he previously served in the Russian counterintelligence service. The mentioned events happened shortly after the president (a FSB colonel) returned the Federal Border Guard Service to the department, where he had come from. New chairman of the service, FSB general Vladimir Pronichev has already promised to make a very efficient special service of the department. Why not making the EMERCOM a special service too? Why not intimidating Sergey Shoygu? Viktor Ivanov and Igor Sechin, the two most odious figures from the president's team are currently helping the Russian People's Party to ameliorate its position. The party consists of People's Deputy faction members, and it does not enjoy any popularity in Russia at all. Ivanov and Sechin have no way out - United Russia does not take them into consideration.

The blow on Mikhail Khodorkovsky has also been connected with the businessman's alleged assistance to Union of Rightist Forces and Yabloko. This does not seem to be true, because the two parties are rather stable in the Russian political life. Mikhail Khodorkovsky dropped a very careless hint, when he said that there were other "werewolves" of higher ranks, who blackmailed the Russian business. On the other hand, taking into account Khodorkovsky's position in the society, and  the merger between Yukos and Sibneft, one shall assume that he can be blackmailed by the "werewolves" of his own economic level. Khodorkovsky's influence in Russian politics has increased a lot over the recent months, and certain groups of the Russian authorities did not like it, of course. On the other hand, Yukos's CEO has a lot of black spots in his past: it is not known, what relations he has with the team of the first Russian president, it is unclear, if Khodorkovsky is still in contact with another Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, and which relations he has with Anatoly Chubais, head of Russian energy giant RAO UES of Russia.

It is easy to find Khodorkovsky's opponents: he is a "businessman of the team," and attacking him will imply an attack against the Russian ruling clan. Yukos has been recently considered one of the most respectable Russian oil companies. Almost all Western observers think that a blow struck on Khodorkovsky's business empire will deprive Russia of all chances to obtain foreign investments. It would mean that Russia has no guarantees at all, that the government is free to take money away from anyone, and so on and so forth. Needless to mention that no investor will agree to work under such conditions.  On Friday, Mikhail Khodorkovsky had to go to the Office of the Prosecutor General to be questioned. He said that investigators had not asked him anything about the company Yukos. However, the company's stocks are still going down.

The people, who have organized all that, are not likely to think of national interests. Current events in Russia match the nature of the Russian power succession: the president powerless, the team is ruling everything, but the president has an opportunity to appoint some of his friends on certain state positions. They have been waiting for money and power for three years already. They understand, if  they wait a little more and the president is elected for the second term, their expectations will become pointless. This makes them start acting. It is important for the president not to let his friends make fatal mistakes. When people of a system attack this system, they can not help losing. The team, or the "family," as it is called in Russia, has already become an inseparable part of the system, and it will continue ruling, no matter if Putin stays or leaves.

BBC photo

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