Staunton, April 19 – Vladimir Putin is losing control over Russia’s force structures, the chief prop of his regime up to now, because the siloviki are angry that they are not getting the resources they did and are seeking to recoup their losses by arresting and extorting money even from state corporations, according to Yuliya Latinina.
In a Novaya gazeta commentary with a title, “They came for everyone,” that eerily echoes German Pastor Martin Niemöller’s words, she says that recent days have provided evidence that the force structures are “beginning to act in ways that spread nightmares even among government corporations” (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2017/04/18/72200-kreml-teryaet-upravlenie-nad-silovikami-kotorye-nachinayut-koshmarit-dazhe-goskorporatsii).
To the extent that the examples she adduces constitute a trend, that could represent a real threat to Putin and his regime -- although it cannot be excluded that just as at the end of Gorbachev’s time, many suggested that he had lost control over the Soviet siloviki as a way of defending him against those who sought to hold him responsible for their outrages.
A month ago, Latynina begins, Vladimir Yevdokimov, the executive director of Roskosmos, was found dead in a Moscow detention center, supposedly because he would not give the needed testimony against Akim Noskov, the head of a helicopter service company, and so had to be gotten out of the way to send a message to others.
The Most media immediately began talking about Yevdokimov as if he were a new Sergey Magnitsky. But the two cases are completely different. Unlike the lawyer who worked with an American businessman, Yevdokimov was hardly the only witness to Noskov’s crimes and in fact, Latynina says, “was simply a hostage” the siloviki were using for their purposes.
Yevdokimov’s murder in the detention center “marks a new stage of the disintegration of the siloviki apparatus of the Russian state, far deeper than that which we observed in the murder of Sergey Magnitsky” because Yevdokimov “was not a defender of some enemy of the fatherland” but a top manager of a state corporation.”
“Of course,” the Moscow commentator says, “Russian businessmen have known for a long time that to fall into the hands of an investigation is a quite ordinary risk of doing business.” But even they have assumed that if they are senior managers in a government corporation, they won’t be killed while incarcerated.
According to Latynina, “the murder of Yevdokimov is only one of several episodes which force one to think about how much the Kremlin in general controls the present-day siloviki” and also how much the latter act in their own interests which may be very different from or even at odds with that of Putin and his team.
But at least part of the explanation for what is going on is to be found in Russia’s economic difficulties and the fact that the Kremlin no longer has as much money to spend even on the siloviki. In such a situation, Latynina suggests, members of the force structures see all arrests or potential arrests as a way of extorting money for themselves.
And to the extent that this becomes the rule rather than the exception, she concludes, it entails “new risk for the regime.”