Posts Tagged ‘economics’
Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev sentenced to 13.5 years imprisonment for allegedly stealing all the oil their own company, Yukos, has produced. This is almost exactly the term (minus 6 months) that the prosecutor requested. The sentence is combined with their current prison term, so they will stay in prison until 2017 (if they survive long enough in prison camps). The truth is, however, as Khodorkovsky mentioned, they will stay behind bars as long as Putin is in power.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky commented the sentence briefly, saying:
Platon Lebedev and I show you an example: do not hope to be protected by a court from a bureaucrat in Russia. The [Central Electoral Commission Chief Vladimir] Churov Rule [“Putin is always right”] works. But we don’t lose heart and wish the same to our friends.
No matter what Russian government says, the people are more and more willing to protest. Two weeks after the huge demonstration in Kaliningrad and another violent dispersing of a peaceful rally in Moscow, more cities join the protest wave.
Despite -15 C (5 F) temperature, about 2000 citizens of Irkutsk participated in a public meeting today to defend Baikal lake, the world largest reserve of freshwater. The protest was caused by a recent decree by Vladimir Putin that allowed a local papermaking factory, reportedly owned by oligarch Oleg Deripaska, to pour waste into the lake. One of the leaders of Solidarnost Vladimir Milov took part in the rally as well as environmentalists, NGO leaders and the head of Yabloko Sergei Mitrokhin. Along with environmentalist slogans, the protesters chanted “Down with Putin’s government!” and “Shame on United Russia!”
United Russia together with the factory’s owners tried to hold their own demonstration in support of the Putin’s decree simultaniously but only managed to bring several hundred participants.
In Samara, 1200 people demanded resignation of their regional governor Vladimir Artyakov. The demonstration was organized by local trade unions. Many protesters from other cities couldn’t make it to Samara because their coaches were stopped by the traffic police; this is a usual preventive measure against the opposition. The rally was held in spite of this, without serious incidents. The region experiences huge problems because the VAZ car factory, its largest enterprise, is close to bankrupcy. Artyakov, who was connected to VAZ, is accused by the people of being unable to cope with the situation. The protesters also demanded direct elections of governors and resignation of Vladimir Putin’s government (Artyakov was appointed by Putin in 2007).
An investment fund called Hermitage Capital Management accuse Russian police and tax authorities of participating in a fraud, which costed Russian taxpayers $230,000,000. According to their film, an organized group of high-ranking officers bribed judges and lawyers, faked documents and criminal cases to steal more than one billion US dollars from the fund (which didn’t work) and 4 billion roubles from the Russian budget. Trying to conceal the crime, corrupted officers fabricated cases against HCM itself. Yesterday, HCM CEO William Browder and legal adviser Sergey Magnitskiy were charged with tax evasion.
I don’t know the details of the case, so I can’t judge what is true in this movie and what is not. But the story is, unfortunately, very lifelike. No doubt, this could really happen in Russia.
Russian stock markets had a hard day today. Two main indexes fell at rates unseen since the August 1998 supercrisis: RTSI lost 19.1% of its morning value, MMVB lost 18.7%. Among the most unfortunate companies are giants like NorNikel (mining), Sistema (telecom), VTB (bank), UralSvyazInvest (telecom), and even Rosneft (petrol) who stole bought YUKOS’ assets.
This drop was the biggest in the world and is perceived by many as the end to the Putin’s “stability”. The long-promised economical crisis is not at the doorstep any more. It is here and its scale appears to be greater than anywhere else in the world (except maybe just for Ukraine with its traditionally weaker economy).
What’s notable is the reaction of Russian media, TV in particular, to this historical event. The two major TV channels (both state-owned) didn’t even mention this “black Monday”. On the contrary, while stock brokers were watching RTSI and MMVD indexes falling a point after a point, ORT and RTR news hosts said that “Russian economy is more protected against the crisis than economies of other countries”. They showed Dmitry Medvedev meeting in Kremlin with oligarch Mikhail Friedman whose assets include shares in cellular operators MTS (dropped -17% today) and Beeline (-23%), X5 Retail Group (-28%) et al. Friedman and Medvedev were telling each other that Russia’s economy is safe and that this crisis provides more opportunities for the national business. Then TV channels showed foreign stock markets and reported that Dow Jones passed a “psychological mark” of 10,000 points. None of them took time to say that Russian RTSI passed a “psychological mark” of 1000 points and then another “psychological mark” of 900 points with ease.
This way of dealing with the crises and avoiding their political consequences reminded me of a well-known Soviet story. When Chernobyl nuclear plant exploded and caused fallout in the whole Eastern Europe in 1986, Soviet television didn’t mention it. They thought it would cause panic and undermine the image of USSR at home and abroad. A few days later citizens of Kyiv and other Ukrainian and Belarussian cities next to Chernobyl participated in the traditional May 1st demonstrations in support of CPSU under radioactive rain. Several days later, however, fallout reached Scandinavia and was noticed by the West. Soviets then had to admit not only the disaster but also their lies and attempts to hide it. Looks like the modern Russian media chooses the same strategy.