Staunton, November 7 – A Duma deputy drawing on a study by the Tax Justice Network says that almost 1.5 trillion US dollars have been illegally sent abroad by Russian businessmen and politicians, an amount, Igor Eidman says, represents “about 10,000 dollars stolen from every Russian from babes in arms to the elderly.”
The Russian commentator for Deutsche Welle says that works out to 40,000 US dollars stolen from every family of four, an amount equal to the cost of two foreign cars or of a small apartment, both of which are far beyond the reach of most Russians but not the thieving oligarchs ( ).
And that is only part of the money these people have stolen from their fellow citizens. They have sent even more abroad via at least superficially legal ways or wasted it inside the country, Eidman continues. “It is difficult even to imagine such sums.” But Russians need to make the effort in order to understand what the Putin regime has done and is doing to them.
Another way to grasp what has been happening, he says, is to recognize that Russia has exported approximately 5.4 trillion US dollars in natural resources since Putin came to power – an amount equal to 36,000 US dollars for every Russian and 144,000 US dollars for a family of four.
In many resource-exporting countries, the government ensures that some of the money earned goes back into the pockets of the population. But not so in Russia, Eidman points out. “Russians,” he asks, “have you ever seen any of this money” or the many goods and services it could have bought instead of London townhouses and luxury yachts for the rich?
Two other articles today underscored his point. The first, a new Higher School of Economics study reported that the level of social inequality in Russia having fallen over the last dozen years is not on the rise once again as the result of inflation and the slow rate of increases in wages and salaries ().
And the second, by Nakanune commentator Yevgeny Rychkov, brought together a series of horrific comments by officials and the upper classes which show that an entire generation of elites has grown up whose members view themselves as entitled to everything they have and more and the less well-off as nothing more as a burden ().
Such people clearly believe that they have the right to everything they can steal; and they will thus have little interest in stemming the outflow of Russia’s wealth or diverting it back to the population. The only change they will introduce, if given the chance, is to direct even more of this money into their own pockets and not those of the Russian people.