Staunton, December 10 – Speaking at a section of the Moscow Economic Forum yesterday, two Russian businessmen issued stinging denunciations of the Russian government’s economic policies, arguing that Moscow was killing the business it couldn’t steal from, and demanded that the government be replaced.
Their protests reflect the anger many Russian businessmen feel about Moscow policies but have been largely unwilling to express. But now that two have broken this taboo, more businessmen may speak out and thus present, along with the truckers’ strike, a more serious threat to the regime than those activists who describe themselves as the political opposition.
But there is another possibility as well, one that cannot be discounted in the murky politics of Vladimir Putin’s Russia: these sharp criticisms may be exploited by the Kremlin leader to deflect all blame for shortcomings from himself to the government of Dmitry Medvedev and then replace the latter with a new command.
One of the businessmen, Pavel Grudinin, director of the Lenin State Farm, said that government policies were responsible for the current economic crisis and that they were keeping businesses from operating effectively (me-forum.ru/media/events/sektsiya-mef/ and rbc.ru/business/10/12/2015/5668b8429a7947618f7d161d).
The other, Dmitry Potapenko, the managing partner of the management Development Group, went even further. He said that the actions of the government, including “the criminal goods embargo,” restrictions and new taxes and fees, had delivered “a knockout blow” to Russian business.
Potapenko described the situation in blunt terms: “The dialogue of business and the authorities over the last 20 years has been one of a butcher with a cow in which the former sweetly looks into the eyes of the latter and holding a knife on its throat asks: ‘And what do you have to give today – meat or milk’”
Both supported the long-haul truckers’ action and said that it was now clear that the government is incapable of dealing with the crisis. “I do not understand,” Grudinin said, why the government doesn’t go now as it is certainly going to have to go at some point in the future if Russia is to recover.
Their criticism generalizes on what others have said, including exiled businessman Igor Bitkov (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2015/08/the-bitkov-case-dangerous-sign-of-times.html) and most recently Sberbank head German Gref about the problems of business in Russia rbc.ru/politics/02/10/2015/560e31299a79478eaa11fb94).
But what is most important is that the two have blamed not the system in general but rather focused on the government as such, thus politicizing the issue in a way that the Kremlin may have more problems responding to, according to various commentators reacting to the words of Grudinin and Potepenko (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=5669292352C38).