Posts Tagged ‘Putin


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.


Presidential elections in Ukraine: and the winner is…. Russia

Viktor Yanukovich was elected president of Ukraine on Sunday. Great news for Russia. The two main contenders were actually good picks for Medvedev/Putin compared to former president Yuschenko. But Yanukovich election is even better with Russia, which five years after the “Orange revolution”, gets back its influence over his former ally.

The heart of Ukraine beats once again on the East… A very happy ending for Vladmir Putin!!!

Russia’s president is prepared to work with Ukraine’s newly-elected head of state, presidential press secretary Natalia Timakova said on Thursday.

“President Medvedev has voiced his position more than once. He is unprepared to work with President Yushchenko, and this position remains,” she said. “As for the new president, elected by the Ukrainians, the head of the Russian Federation is prepared to work with him.”

At the same time Timakova said it was necessary to wait for the official announcement of election results in Ukraine.

She recalled that earlier President Medvedev had sent his congratulations to Viktor Yanukovich upon his success in the presidential election.

On February 9 they had a telephone conversation and Russia’s president greeted Viktor Yanukovich “upon the end the election campaign, which was highly evaluated by international observers, and upon his success in Ukraine’s presidential election.”

According to the Central Election Commission, which has processed 100 percent of electronic protocols presented by district commissions, the leader of the Party of Regions Viktor Yanukovich collected 48.95 percent of the votes in the presidential election runoff (12,481,268 votes), and his rival, Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko, 45.47 percent (11,593,340 votes).

The official returns are to be announced no later than February 17. The new head of state is to take office within the first month following the official declaration of election returns.


United Russia can’t trust its own people anymore

ph2009042602855Who said that Putin’s United Russia was a mockery of democracy? Certainly not Anton Chumachenko, a first time party’s running candidate who denied … his own victory!!!

I’m an old man. I’ve seen many elections, many decent politicians, but I have to admit this is the first time I ever witness such an example of political integrity. But the kid is young, only 23, and he has plenty of time to learn political cynism…

It is funny though it appears in Putin’s very party and I’m sure some folks at the Kremlin did not appreciate this move which dramatically ennlightens government  electoral manipulations.

Chumachenko does not care. “I don’t want to begin my political career with a cynical mockery of rights, laws and morality”, he said after denying his own victory at a local legislative election in St-Petersburg.

Please find below extracts of a Washington Post article about this story:

ST. PETERSBURG — In a country where complaints of vote-rigging are common — and commonly ignored — Anton Chumachenko’s stands out: The authorities say he won an election, but he insists he lost.

A first-time candidate for office and a member of Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russia party, Chumachenko won a seat on a local legislative council in St. Petersburg last month. Three weeks later, he publicly renounced his own victory, expressing disgust that votes had been falsified in his favor.

“I don’t need this kind of victory!” the recent college graduate wrote in an open letter to residents. “I don’t want to begin my political career with a cynical mockery of rights, laws and morality.”

Chumachenko’s stand took authorities by surprise and caused an uproar, challenging the nation’s crooked electoral system in a way no member of the opposition could. But it also stunned the government’s critics, many of whom could hardly believe that a young man who came of age in Putin’s Russia might choose idealism over the cynicism that pervades politics here today.

Chumachenko, a mid-level manager in a local hotel firm, seemed like a reliable United Russia man when he began campaigning for a seat on the municipal council of St. Petersburg’s Morskoy district. He had been a member of the party since 2006, when he joined its fiercely pro-Kremlin youth wing, the Young Guard, and he was running on a ticket with four other United Russia candidates.

In a recent interview, he exhibited that youthful mix of earnestness and ambition so familiar in official Washington. The skinny 23-year-old with thick, arched eyebrows, a dark two-button suit and a degree in public relations said it was a “childhood dream” to seek office, adding that he hoped to fix roads, organize street patrols to fight crime and make St. Petersburg a more attractive tourist destination.

As for his selection of a political party, Chumachenko said he didn’t have much choice. “I understood that only this political party would give me the power and opportunities to change things,” he said. “If I worked with any other party, it would be just words, and I think it’s better to do something than just criticize.”

A Work in Progress

As president and now as prime minister, Putin has worked to weaken Russia’s opposition parties while concentrating power in United Russia, whose members hold the vast majority of the nation’s elected posts, including more than two-thirds of the seats in parliament.

But the ruling party established in 2001 remains a work in progress. It has struggled in particular to contain infighting in municipal elections, one of the few remaining venues for open political competition in Russia.

In St. Petersburg, for example, Chumachenko’s ticket was backed by a prominent city legislator, while its main competition in the March 1 election was another United Russia team endorsed by the Morskoy district chief. There was also a slate of opposition and independent candidates campaigning against government plans to build a highway and port in the neighborhood, which lies on an island in the Neva River.

The hotly contested race produced a high turnout, exceeding 35 percent of the voters in some areas, compared with about 10 percent in past years. Each slate of candidates sent observers to the polling stations to watch as residents cast ballots and election workers counted them.

At the end of the night, after the observers called in results, Chumachenko added the figures and realized he had lost, placing sixth in a race in which the top five vote-getters won seats. The four others on his United Russia ticket prevailed, along with one of the opposition candidates, Boris Vishnevsky, a leader of the pro-democracy Yabloko party.


Putin and the FSB: Big brother is Watching you

fsb-bw1I consider the Putin/FSB relation as one of the most interesting myths of today’s Russia.

I guess this show the great charisma of Putin who has been able to make believe to the whole world that he heads and perfectly controls the scariest organization: the FSB (formerly known as the even scarier KGB)

 As any myth, it is  very convenient to give a single globalizing explanation to situations that can hardly be linked to each others.

Let me explain my point. I’ve lived in Russia for years and I tend to believe that the FSB power is highly over-rated in Western medias.

It reminds me a bit of the last years of the soviet era, when American journalists and politicians scared the hell out of Americans on Soviet stength and military greatness. It took them years to realize that the so-called military greatness was nothing but a “paper tiger” as would Mao say.

I believe that today’s FSB is a little bit in this type of situation. They undoubtedly have a great know-how in intellligence and “counter-terrorism” technics.

But let be honnest, they have very little means and therefore they are unable to realize the huge and disgusting work the KGB did under Stalin’s rule.

Moreover, it is also very convennient to believe that Putin perfectly controls the FSB. As in any organization, there are struggles and tensions among the FSB.

People like Sechin for instance also have a huge influence among FSB top officials. Greater than Putin’s? I don’t think so, but great enough to be able to send contradictory messages and orders.


The Siloviki faction: they are everywhere!!!

071031_putin_01In a recent post, I wrote about Hawks and doves within the Kremlin and many thought (as I expected) I was talking about the so-called Siloviki/financiers struggle.

Well, I wasn’t… Because I just don’t believe in this Siloviki faction you hear about whenever you read about Russian politics.

What is exactly this Siloviki faction anyway? For western journalists it is something like a sect or at least a secret order built on the ashes of the infamous KGB and which plans to take over Russia.

I”m not too much into conspiracy theories and I tend not to believe in globalizing theories. Let me explain.

According to many “observers”, the Siloviki faction gathers people close to Putin former FSB agents and/or people from St-Petersburg. Basically anyone who has ever met Putin!!!

I don’t buy it. Can we then talk about a “Chicago clique” behind Obama? I mean, is there something more common for a leader than to hire counselors he knows, with whom he has a common background.

Does it make a faction out of them? An unbreakable link? A common vision and objectives? Does it prevennt personal ambition?

But there’s more when you talk about the Siloviki. The alleged members of this faction would be ploting to take over Russia. Come on! In which circles close to government don’t you see people taking advantage of their situation. Corruption and embezzlement does not only exist in Putin’s Russia.

So, Putin has brought with him a bunch of hardcore nationalists, but is he himself anything else than a hardcore nationalist.

I think this all Siloviki fantasy is the silliest journalistic invention around Putin and his ambition for Russia. He does not need any secret faction to implement his politics. Unfortunately???


Boris berezovsky: rise and fall of a first generation oligarch (part 2)

I admit I was being a bit provocative publishing a Russia Today report in my last week post. For those of you who think (and eventually told me) I have sold my soul to the Kremlin, I just want to make my point clear.

Berezovsky -as Khodorkovsky as a matter of fact- claims he is the sole democrat in Russia and that he is being prosecuted for his liberal positions.

We all know this is not true. Prosecutions against him are for the least shady and highly political, but have nothing to do with a struggle for liberty and democracy.

Berezovsky was a ruthless and ambitious businessman who thought that because he helped Putin being elected would be at the very heart of Russian power.

He was wrong, did not accept it and thought he was strong enough to test Putin. He lost the battle, end of the story.

Russia Today report was indeed biased, but not that much more than other reports we see on Russia lately. I wanted to promote it because I thought that at least, it was a good way to bring another point of view within the debate…


Boris Berezovsky: rise and fall of a first generation oligarch

Have a look at the video below. The report was aired on Kremlin controled TV channel Russia Today (a Russian CNN wannabe!!!) and it is clear that the report gives a very pro-Kremlin image of the Berezovsky case.

However, I tend to believe that in many ways, it gives a much more complete view of the situation than the reports we usually see on BAB (Boris Abramovich Berezovsky, his Russian nickname) and it gives a bit of a balance on what first generation oligarchs were really about: they were not much concerned about democracy as they now pretend, but benefitted outrageously from Russian privatization wave.