Fresh investigations into government spending have embarrassed Russian President Vladimir Putin and heightened the tension in the ongoing hacking tug-of-war between the US and Russia.
- Publication of “Russian Wikileaks” reveals embarrassing sums spent on President Vladmir Putin’s inner circle and their pets.
- Putin at heart of secret deals and murky wealth acquisition.
- Alexei Navalny – the Russian Julian Assange?
Alongside a shopping list of extravagant leaks, the revelations this week that first deputy premier Igor Shuvalov snapped up 10 consecutive apartments in a prestigious skyscraper in Moscow and that his wife used private jets to transport their pet corgis, purportedly “to defend Russia’s honor”, have shone a spotlight into the murky, moneyed world of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.
Additional disclosures of public money being used on yachts for wives and girlfriends and political influence at the cost of $60 million properties reveal the endemic abuse under a president the US recently described as corrupt.
For Putin and his political friends, it’s only business as usual…
Putin’s Secret Wealth?
- Putin declared a 2014 income of just 7.65 million roubles ($119,000) and listed the ownership of two small apartments.
- However US officials have repeatedly questioned this figure, accusing him of an estimating a secret wealth of over $40 billion dollars.
- The US Treasury told the BBC it has evidence tying Putin to profits from an arrangement with Gunvor, a Russian company that trades nearly 3% of the world’s oil.
- In January of this year, a former operator of shipping company Sovcomflot claims he witnessed the transfer of a $35m yacht to Putin from Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich.
Meet Alexei Navalny – the anti-corruption crusader and whistle-blower whose investigations into the private dealings of Russia’s elite has embarrassed the government and led to a storm of infighting in the Kremlin.
“They are eating each other”, he states proudly at a rally. A former lawyer and stockholder in Gazprom, this thorn in the side of Putin has been placed under house arrest and convicted of fraud twice. Sham charges, his supporters say, fabricated to bar him running for office as a rival of Putin.
Described by many as the Russian Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, Navalny is keen to stress that his anti-establishment organization relies on research rather than hacking. He is critical of the increasing evidence that Wikileaks colluded with Russian authorities in it’s spat with the US administration.
Navalny regularly uses his 1.8 million Twitter platform to blast Russian corruption among the oligarch class and Putin’s economic policy, posting leaked information discredits the Kremlin.
Caption reads: “The two pictures that tell you absolutely everything about the Putin regime”
A huge following among younger metropolitan Russians also makes him a considerable rival to Putin and his cronies as the diplomatic spat with the West shows no signs of abating any time soon. But with Putin’s grip on Russia’s electorate and his appeal to nationalistic groups, he has some work to do…
Putin’s Stranglehold on Russia
Since invading, occupying and annexing Crimea, Vladimir Putin has portrayed himself as an international strongman, standing up to the West and enjoying support from Russia’s nationalists and patriots.
However, abuses under his regime have alarmed and galvanized Russia’s young, metropolitan population and led to accusations of barbarism and ruling with an “iron fist”.
In the dozen years since Putin came to power, the murder of journalists, minority rights advocates and racist attacks have spiked under his rule.
As Russia continues to slip down the worlds rankings for press freedoms, political representation and human rights abuses, it sometimes feels as if we are looking at a new kind of dictatorship. Alarmingly for Putin and his cronies, a poor economy could well derail that vision.
These latest scandals may well fail to bring down Putin’s machine but they certainly set the stage for a further chill in the relationship between Russia and other world powers.