Bad Time for Kremlin’s Potemkin Exhibition in Chicago
Russian National Exhibition, a grand event organized by Russian government to attract US investment, opens in Chicago tomorrow. Russian bureaucrats and businesspeople will try to convince their American counterparts that it is safe and profitable to put money in Russia’s economy. This difficult task appears even less achievable after today’s tragic death in Moscow custody of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer for Hermitage Capital Investment. He was arrested a year ago on tax evasion charges and, according to the defence, the investigators tried to coerce him into giving false testimony against his boss William Browder. Heritage claims that corrupt police officials have used its stamps and documents to steal huge amounts from the national budget as tax compensation. But it was Magnitsky who those same officials later charged with tax evasion. He complained multiple times about his health and was refused health care, his attorneys say. His death is another sad warning to those who risk to invest in Putin’s Russia.
The organizers of the Exhibition will not ignore the humanitarian aspect too. They even have a whole 2.5-hour long session on “Formation of Civil Society.” Five regional ombudsmen (from Samara, Yekaterinburg, Dagestan and Kabardino-Balkaria), an editor of an online paper and an unkown (to me) expert will be explaining how Russia develops its civil society. The apparent lack of any NGOs’ representatives speaks for itself: the government has no activists to show to their Western partners without loss of image.