Friday, September 16, 2022

Brandon Bootlicks American Oligarchs While Valodya Rules Russia's Greediest Parasites

euractiv  |  The first dollar billionaires from Russia appeared on the Forbes list in 1997, while today, there are 83, all of whom are part of a close circle of oligarchs around Vladimir Putin. As the list shows, they got rich during his rule. Today, this club of the richest returns the favour to their political mentor; they are obliged to support, or at least not hinder, his life project – the aggression against Ukraine.

The history of this club is a story about relationships in mafia organisations, not about the relationship between the “ordinary” state and “ordinary” capitalist companies. The first and most important meeting was held in the Kremlin in mid-2000, just a few months after Putin’s first presidential inauguration. He was the new leader of the state, army and security services and the 21st-ranking businessman at that time.

At this meeting at the giant table in the Kremlin, the first strategic agreement was reached on the game’s rules for the future. Putin promised not to review the privatisation of the 1990s and demanded loyalty in return. In terms of commitment, these influential people could not work against his government through the media they controlled and the political influence they undoubtedly had. At this meeting, an agreement was made on omertà; a code was adopted that would last for two decades.

The next meeting of this importance was held on 24 February this year, the day Russia attacked Ukraine. The hall in the Kremlin was filled with billionaires, and their leader, without whom they would not be what they are, asked for their loyalty again.

The price of that loyalty was much higher than ever before because personal sanctions had already been raised against everyone. Their billions in Western banks were blocked, and their jet planes, yachts, and mansions in London, Nice and Tuscany were seized. The stakes for showing loyalty were also higher because Putin’s country went to war to realise its mythical “Russian world”.

Anyone who thought they should oppose or even not participate vigorously in this work received a clear warning that such behaviour would not be tolerated.

In the past six months, as Russia has been trying to occupy Ukraine, at least eight top Russian businessmen and heads of several major companies have died in unexplained circumstances.

The last of them, the first man of the oil giant Lukoil, Ravil Maganov, may have accidentally fallen from the window (or balcony) of a Moscow hospital or committed suicide, as the controlled Russian media wrote. Maybe he got hurt because he was one of the few top businessmen who did not have kind words about the aggression against Ukraine.

His Lukoil asked for an end to the war back in March, which is hard to forgive. In May, his former executive director Alexander Subotin also died under unexplained circumstances, except for the state propaganda that discredits him, saying that he died “after visiting a shaman”.

The circumstances under which Leonid Shulman, one of the directors at Gazprom Invest and Alexander Tyulyakov, also one of the top managers at Gazprom (found dead in his garage), died are not clear. There is no trace of the murder of Vladislav Avayev, former vice president of Gazprom Bank, his wife and their daughter in a Moscow apartment.

Just like the murder of the head of the gas giant Novatek Sergei Protosenya and his family in their apartment in Spain. It remains unknown why Vasily Melnikov, the owner of the medical company Medstom, his wife and two children were stabbed to death in Nizhny Novgorod in March.

Just as it remains unknown how the Russian gas billionaire of Ukrainian origin Mikhail Watford died in his apartment in England.

It seems unlikely that we will ever get answers from Russian investigations regarding this long and likely increase, string of deaths.

It would be reasonable to ask for only one answer – how did these unfortunate people violate the long-established code of loyalty? Because the death of at least eight top managers from the most prominent Russian companies in just six months of Russian aggression against Ukraine cannot be a “regular” crime.

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