Sunday, March 23, 2014

Window on Eurasia: By Sanctioning Oligarchs, West Underscores Nature of Putin’s Regime, Piontkovsky Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 23 – By sanctioning not just officials near Vladimir Putin who were the executors of his policy of seizing and annexing Crimea but also Russian oligarchs, the West has underscored the fundamental nature of Putin’s regime as a criminal form of crony capitalism, according to Andrey Piontkovsky.

            In a blog post yesterday, the Russian commentator said that the precise targettingn of personal sanctions by the US and the European Union thus “marks the final and irreversible break of the Western leaders with their former colleague in the G8, a break that is not simply political but rather hygienic” (

            Many have focused on those in the Russian government who are close to Putin, he says, but „much more interesting is the second small but colorful group of businessmen: Kovalchuk, the Rotenberg brothers,and Timchenko,“ billionaires who „had no relation to the annexation (liberation) of Crimea.“

            US President Barack Obama described the four as „individuals with substantial resources and influence who provide material support to the Russian leadership.“  If one translates that from English diplomatic language to the Russian of the criminal world, he suggests, that means that the West has identified the Russian regime as „a criminal community“ involved in illegal money laundering of „particularly large size.“
            „For those who did not undersand,“ Piontkovsky continues, the US Department of the Treasury was explicit. In its announcement, that institution pointed out that „’Putin has investments in a company called ’Gunvor,’ one of hte biggest oil traders in the world’“ and thus is an integral part of the criminal organization that the Russian state has become.

            As the Russian commentator points out, „the most popular and most unwelcome for the authoriteis slogan of the mass protests was ’Putin is a thief.’“  The regime has done what it can to suppress references to this, but it is clear that this „murderous slogan“ has already „scandalized the leaders and financial police of the G7.“

            Thus, the real „fifth column“ within the Russian Federation is not the opposition as Putin has suggested but rather in the views of „95 percent of Russian citizens“ „the Rotenbergs, the Kovalchuks, the Timchenkos and the Abramoviches,“ although it „would be better“ to describe them „in the words of the Soviet prosecutor at Nuremberg“ as „criminals“ who have taken over the state and made it „a tool of their own crimes.“

            What has delayed the final playing out of this drama, Piontkovsky concludes, is a certain „cognitive dissonance“ reflecting „the mysterious Russiann soul.“ On the one hand, most Russians see as criminals those around the Kremlin leader, but onthe other, they still celebrate the leader himself, an observation that suggests Putin’s days of untouchability are likely to be shortlived.

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