22
Feb
12

Reporters Find No Substantial Links between Vladimir Putin and Gennady Timchenko

For years, media sources have been opining about the purported links between Vladimir Putin and Gennady Timchenko.  Journalists quote sources—particularly those whom for one reason or another cannot substantiate what they state—claiming Vladimir Putin and Gennady Timchenko are “close friends.” Still others argue the Russian Prime Minister holds “secret shares” worth millions in Gunvor, an oil trading company owned by Gennady Timchenko.

Vladimir Putin is obviously in the public eye: there’s no escaping that fact. As such, he’s the aim of praise and in equal or greater measure, criticism.  But Gennady Timchenko is a different story. The Finnish businessman and oil trading head of Gunvor has wisely stayed out of the public eye for the entirety of his career, excepting his annual placement on Forbes’ billionaires list.  Nevertheless, Gennady Timchenko’s been reeled into the media circus surrounding Russian politics and the country’s leading officials such as Vladimir Putin. 

In 2008, Gennady Timchenko authored an open letter to say that the media’s speculation that he enjoyed special ties with Vladimir Putin was “overblown.” More recently, numerous media publications have published public apologies, corrections, or retractions for waging baseless claims about Gennady Timchenko’s purported connection to Vladimir Putin.  Or, more quietly, news sources have indicated that no meaningful links between Vladimir Putin and Gennady Timchenko have been found to date. 

One example of the media’s fallibility when it comes to Gennady Timchenko is perhaps best illustrated with The Economist.  The magazine published a dizzying dog-chasing-his-tail story on corruption in Russia that mentioned Gennady Timchenko’s alleged links with Vladimir Putin.  What happened after? The Economist issued a public correction to the story and admitted it published inappropriate and unchecked information about Gennady Timchenko.  An excerpt of The Economist apology reads as follows:

“We are happy to make it clear that when we referred to the ‘new corruption’ in today’s Russia, we did not intend to suggest that either Gunvor or Mr Timchenko obtained their Russian oil business as a result of payment by them of bribes or like corrupt inducements . . . We accept Gunvor’s assurances that neither Vladimir Putin nor other senior Russian political figures have any ownership interest in Gunvor. We regret if any contrary impression was given.”

Now that Russia’s election season has begun, let’s hope the media can keep their attention on the political candidates and leave today’s leading businessmen alone.

28
Oct
11

Former tennis star Marat Safin will run for the Duma

Former world number one and double grand slam title winner Marat Safin is the latest Russian tennis player to confirm he intends to run for his country’s parliament.

Safin, the 2000 US Open winner and 2005 Australian Open champion, said he was serious about his political ambitions.

“I am running for Federal Parliament in Russia,” Safin told the ATP Champions Tour website.

“The elections are on December 4th so I will find out soon. It’s a new challenge. I think I am an intelligent guy and I have a lot to bring and a lot of ideas about things and what to do. I am very committed to it.”

Safin added: “I could be the best looking guy in the Duma, but that’s only because all the other guys are over 60.”

The 31-year-old Safin is the second Russian tennis star to target a seat in the Duma following 2007 US Open women’s semi-finalist Anna Chakvetadze announcement in September that she was to stand for the Right Cause party.

The 24-year-old, formerly ranked in the top five in the world, has not played since Wimbledon in June because of poor health.

Chakvetadze said she wanted to “try something new” and focus on women’s rights and children’s sports.

“I joined the Right Cause Party because it’s a young party,” she said.

“All of its members are young people, who have many fresh ideas. I believe I also can bring some fresh ideas into this project.

“I’d like to be involved in deciding the questions concerning the sports sphere in case we manage to enter the State Duma.”

19
Oct
11

Hockey: Gennady Timchenko’s raising expectations for SKA fans

Finnish businessman and new chairman of the Saint-Petersburg hockey team SKA, Gennady Timchenko,has raised high expectations among SKA fans. For the Geneva based oil trader, his team has to win the Russian hockey championship (KHL).

Gennady Timchenko is a successful businessman who is using the same managing methods when it comes to professional sport: get the most out of his team and expect perfection to reach his goals. The type of pep talk SKA fans love!

SKA objectives for the 2011-2012 KHL season are “to reach the final and bring the Gagarin Cup to Saint Petersburg”, GennadyTimchenko announced while hosting the team presentation earlier this month. The SKA 2011-2012 squad indeed seems built to bring the trophy back to Saint-Petersburg.

One of the first decision of Gennady Timchenko as chairman of the team, was to appoint a new head coach… and he took the best, Milos Riha who was last year awarded as “Best coach” of the league. A world-class coach is certainly a good start when you’re to build a championship team.

But a coach is not a whole team, and if the SKA roster was already filled with competitive players (Nabokov, Vishnevsky, Afinogenov,…) Gennady Timchenko chose to recruit talented and experienced players such as defenders Kirill Koltsov and Dmitry Kalinin from SalavatYulaev, Yuri Aleksandrov from Providence Bruins or Igor Makarov from the Chicago Balckhawks.

As the new season started on September 12, SKA seems more ready than ever to reach the European Hockey “Holy Grail” and win the KHL trophy. Fans are waiting for no less than a title from this experienced and talented squad.

After nine games, SKA is currently ranked fifth of the League with a game less (and potentially leading the league). Play-offs qualification should not be an issue for this team which was already awarded with the “Best Goaltender” for September. JakubStepanek only allowed 7 goals in five games!

17
Oct
11

Putin : rationing could come back “in a blink of an eye”

Russia’s economic growth is not granted and the situation could easily get back where it was at the end of the Soviet era according to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. He warned on Monday that political steps in the wrong direction could throw Russia back to the volatile 1980s-1990s.

Putin brushed off criticism of his tandem with President Dmitry Medvedev in an interview with three national TV channels seven weeks before parliamentary elections scheduled for December 4.

“I would caution against saying that things cannot get worse. If we take two or three steps in the wrong direction, everything that happened then [in 1980s-1990s] could return in the blink of an eye,” Putin said.

The prime minister described the situation in Russia at the end of the 1980s as disastrous and cited a popular joke to stress his point.

“For instance: some people invite their friends to come over for a visit. When they arrive, the hosts ask, ‘Would you like to wash your hands with soap?’ They say that they do. The hosts reply, ‘Then you’ll be having your tea without sugar.’ The idea is that one could not afford to have both. People could only get the essentials – basic food products. There was rationing for everything, to say nothing of the monopoly in ideology and politics,” Putin said.

In Putin’s opinion, the wrong steps taken by the Russian leadership at the time led to the downfall and collapse of the country and created the circumstances that were behind the country’s dissolution.

“It was in this way that we threw out the baby with the bath water – the dirty water of an inadequate political system and an inefficient economy. We allowed the country to collapse. This was also a time when people said that things could not get any worse,” Putin said.

“But then came the 1990s: a total collapse of the social sphere, when we saw not only single enterprises but entire industries grind to a halt, along with delays in pensions, all kinds of benefits, military pensions and salaries (which were delayed for months), and rampant crime. We truly came close to a civil war. We shed blood in the Caucasus, where we sent air power, heavy equipment and tanks. We are still dealing with the problems that remain there – crime and terrorism – but thank God, the situation has changed.”

Putin said that elements of stability in the political sphere were of vital importance for Russia which has been emerging from a deep political and economic crisis for the last two decades.

Putin and Medvedev have backed one another to switch roles after 2012 presidential elections. Medvedev proposed Putin for president at the United Russia congress in late September, saying he was ready to serve as prime minister in case of Putin’s victory.

06
Oct
11

Vladimir Putin wants an “Eurasian Schengen” for his next term

The presidential race has started for Russian Prime minister Vladimir Putin. In his first article since he announced he would run in 2012, Putin has outlined a proposal to set up a so-called “Eurasian Union” of former Soviet states that would build on an existing Customs Union with Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Putin, who is expected to become Russia’s next president when elections are held in March, outlined his first foreign policy initiative in an article in Tuesday’s Izvestia newspaper.

The prime minister, who once described the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century,” denied his project is an attempt to rebuild the old Soviet Union.

The current Customs Union is scheduled to remove all barriers to trade, capital and labor movement between the three countries in 2012. Putin said that Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan were expected to join the new Eurasian Union, which he predicts will become a major global player.

29
Sep
11

Putin/Medvedev: who really had a doubt?

Russia’s prime minister, Vladimir Putin, plans to swap jobs next year with President Dmitry Medvedev. Medvedev, who succeeded Putin in 2008, proposed the move Saturday at the annual congress of Russia’s ruling party.

The carefully choreographed job swap between Putin and Medvedev plays again and again on Russia’s state-controlled TV. Off-camera, though, not everyone is applauding.

The day after the announcement, protesters were chanting, “Russia without Putin.”

Ilya Yashin of the opposition Solidarity movement spoke at the rally in central Moscow. He said that Medvedev’s job was merely to keep Putin’s seat warm until the Russian constitution allowed him to return to the Kremlin.

In addition to charging the Putin government with corruption, Yashin faults Russia’s strongman with presiding over an ever-widening gap between Russia’s rich and poor. He said Russia leads the Forbes billionaires’ list, while 20 million people live in poverty.

Anti-Putin rally

But in a city of 12 million people, only 250 people showed up for an anti-Putin rally. And some, like Sergei Nikolayevich, a retired Army officer, were not convinced. He said he is not concerned about the political situation because of Russia’s strength in oil and gas.

At a park across the street, most strollers do not want to talk about politics.

The tandem: “Neither here nor there” at Moscow protest, Sept. 24, 2011. (VOA – Y. Weeks)

Vladimir Aristarkhov, a publishing house employee, said he plans to vote for the opposition Communist Party, out of protest. He worried that Putin and Medvedev could cling to power for a quarter-century.

Referring to the comedy duo in the Austin Powers spy movies, he said, “Our local version of Dr. Evil and his Mini-Me will stay in power as long as they can.”

Soviet-era redux

Vladimir’s buddy, Dima, a freight loader, worried that Russia now faces the kind of long-term stagnation that his parents lived through during Leonid Brezhnev’s 18-year rule of the Soviet Union. Dima said Russia will continue stagnating because Putin plans to stay in the Kremlin for another 12 years.

The Internet TV website, Dozhd, ran a poll asking site visitors the best reaction to a return of Putin to the Kremlin. The most popular option – emigrate.

Andrei, a 34-year-old IT worker, is staying. But he is not happy with the prospect of Putin continuing to stay in power.

“It makes us similar to the USSR – because we have one party, one government, one leader,” he said.

Andrei also worries that Russia’s biggest advantage – its oil and gas supplies – also is its Achilles Heel. “We are very dependent on the price of oil and gas, and this makes our economy very vulnerable,” he said.

Andrei and others say that if a worldwide recession knocks down oil and gas prices, Russia’s carefully choreographed political transition could face a reality check – from Russia’s streets.

21
Sep
11

Federation Council: Putin shows he’s still the on to decide

A former mayor of St. Petersburg and an ally of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has been named speaker of the upper house of the national parliament. A move showing that Vladimir Putin’s influence over Russian politics has nowhere diminished and is one more sign the current Prime minister of Russia shall soon move back to the Kremlin.

Valentina Matvienko was elected to the post Wednesday by 140 of the Federation Council’s 166 members, with no votes against. The choice, following months of political maneuvering, was expected.

 

The previous speaker, Sergei Mironov, leads the Just Russia party, a grouping widely seen as a Kremlin creation aimed at siphoning votes away from the Communists. Mironov was removed in May after criticizing the Putin-led United Russia party that dominates national politics.

Federation Council members are appointed by regional governments. As mayor of Russia’s second-largest city, Matvienko was ineligible for appointment, so she resigned from that post in August.