Trial reveals infighting within Kremlin kleptocracy


Signs of Kremlin infighting surfaced on Wednesday as Alexei Ulyukaev, the former Russian minister of economic development, told a Moscow court that Igor Sechin, the head of the state oil company Rosneft, had plotted with secret police to frame him in a high-level corruption case, reports suggest:

Russian prosecutors have accused Mr Ulyukaev of demanding a $2 million (€1.7 million) bribe from Rosneft in exchange for the economy ministry’s approval for Rosneft’s controversial takeover of Bashneft, another state-controlled oil firm. Many observers were surprised by Mr Ulyukaev’s courtroom attack on such a powerful figure as Mr Sechin, who is widely feared in the Russian establishment. It is not yet clear whether the judge will call the Rosneft chief as a witness at the next court hearing on September 1st.

A presidential election looms in 2018. Kremlinologists expect Mr Putin to reshuffle his team and redefine his agenda in preparation for his fourth, and presumably final, act as president (unless he changes the constitution), The Economist notes:

While Mr Putin has kept mum about his plans, his lackeys are clamouring to secure their roles. The main division is not between the authorities and the opposition, argues Alexander Baunov of the Carnegie Moscow Centre, a think-tank, but between “those who see Russia integrated into global modernity and those who see it at the head of the resistance to this modernity.”

If anyone had told members of Russia’s lower house of parliament on August 16, 1999 that the vote they were about to take would shape events in their country and much of the world for the next two decades, they would have been very surprised, Vladimir Kara-Murza writes for World Affairs:

A week earlier, President Yeltsin had dismissed Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin and nominated Russia’s domestic security chief to take his place; the extraordinary session of the Duma was called in the midst of the August recess to consider the nomination. The candidate’s name was Vladimir Putin, and he was little-known even to many in the establishment, let alone the public at large. Yeltsin’s announcement that he would like to see the premier-designate succeed him in the Kremlin was met with ridicule.

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