There haven’t been observed such concentration of dismissals, arrests, searches, and sentences for a long time. The Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov has been dismissed. Three heads of the property divisions of the military department have already arrested in connection with a series of criminal cases involving commercial abuses; the arrest of the fourth one has already been predetermined. Criminal cases are instituted not only on the Ministry of Defense. A former functionary of the Ministry of Regional Development, also suspected of a large embezzlement, has been arrested as well. The embezzlements in the Russian Space Agency running into billions are being investigated. Information about searches and other investigative actions comes almost daily.
The purge within the Ministry of Defense goes under the brand of an investigation into the machinations of the Oboronservis holding, which transferred logistic technical support of the armed forces to a commercial footing. The pogrom in the Ministry of Regional Development was formally provoked by the investigation of the theft during the preparation of the APEC Summit. The dark clouds are piling up over the Roscosmos because of siphoning off the funds allocated for the development of GLONASS.
Let's illustrate the trend on key examples.
On November 6, the Minister of Defense Anatoly Serdyukov was sent in resignation. By that time, the scandal around him had started to run at full speed combining elements of financial abuse with immoral behavior in domestic squabbles. Five criminal cases were initiated on illegal commercial sale of property of the Ministry of Defense (from the land lots to oil transshipment complex in Murmansk). The arrested people - Maxim Zakutaylo, Ekaterina Smetanova, and Dmitry Mityaev - supervised just these processes through their structures. Having passed a medical operation, Evgeniya Vasilyeva, a friend and ally of the former minister, who headed the Property Relations Department in the Ministry which had become under Serdyukov more important than the General Staff, is now waiting for arrest. By the way, after the Defense Minister, the Chief of the General Staff was removed from office. The generals, who failed to properly celebrate the dismissal of the hated “mebelshchik” (furniture businessman), are waiting for their turn, and they even know that the turn might be not only for resignation.
What is happening in the military department is a large state concussion of its own accord. But in addition, since the end of last week, the parallel story has moved to the forefront. The Far Eastern Directorate of the Ministry of Regional Development has turned up under attack. The law enforcement authorities arrested the former Deputy Minister Roman Panov, who removed to the regional government of Perm after the APEC. The theft of 93 million rubles, intended to organize the prestigious geopolitical summit but spilled over to the accounts of some “fly-by-night” companies mated with Panov, now is being investigated. It is already known that along with Panov, the head of the Far Eastern Directorate Oleg Bukhalov (who hasn’t arrested yet, but clearly it is expected) has appeared in the case. It should be added that in October, the Regional Development Minister Oleg Hovorun retired, shortly before he had been personally criticized by the president for braking of the social projects. His successor, Igor Slyunyaev, has to begin his governmental service having the problem of the “APEC millions”.
The most recent investigation has been launched on the system of the Federal Space Agency. The stealing of 6.5 billion rubles was detected in one of its structural units - in the Russian Rocket-Space Corporation Instrumentation and Information Systems JSC (Russian Space Systems, RKS). Yury Urlichich, General Director and Chief Designer was the first who was sent in resignation. In connection with this, we say, unlawful diversion of the funds, allocated to the GLONASS navigation system, a criminal case was initiated. There was especially important purposeful mass media leak: the current head of the Russian Presidential Administration Sergey Ivanov, who had served as Deputy Prime Minister in the government of Vladimir Putin, was aware of these facts for two years – as if he kept it under control. Now he appears as the winner of the technocrats-thieves.
The situations are unique, the reasons are different. But they have clear common denominators: anti-corruption campaign and toughening of power control over the state services and the business affiliated with the state – we have no other business in serious scales.
This is not just a set of measures of toughening. Some contours of the system policy are being outlined. The higher federal authority sets a course for establishment of order at the surfaces. It was supposedly designated at the end of August at the latest, beginning with a memorable bill sharply restricting the right of officials to own real estate outside of the Russian Federation and prohibiting foreign bank accounts.
According to our information, this course was directly declared at a recent closed meeting under the chairmanship of President Putin. The structure of participants was very specific – there were practically no officials, except for, of course, the very first one. Not officials but private individuals listened to the Head of the state. There were the largest magnates of Putin's Russian Federation – their private property is really a state commission. There were Gennady Timchenko (oil and gas), Arkady and Boris Rotenberg (real estate, alcohol, and communications), Vladimir Kogan (finance), and Yury and Mikhail Kovalchuk (finance, media).
Oligarchs in the classical Anglo-Saxon understanding ceased to exist in Russia long ago. Not economic might gives political power here, but it is exactly the opposite. Officials appoint the rich. The richest one is the first official. And he also gives a measure of the wealth and opportunities it provides.
It is significant that the meeting was attended by only tycoons of Putin's draft who got rich in the 2000s. The President still takes notice of his personal friends and spends time on explanations with them. (The ex-oligarchs of the ninetieth such as Oleg Deripaska and Vladimir Potanin wait for instructions in the lobby. “What will I do?” - Potanin philosophized answering the question how he would have acted if an unfavorable to him decision had been made. “What to do when it is raining prodigiously? Take umbrella and go”, he said.)
The largest managers of formally private funds were introduced to the supreme directive: the redistribution of resources between business generations, produced in the 2000s, was over. It went down in history as the initial accumulation of the 1990s. The capital of Putin's magnates was helped to establish, strengthen, grow, and gain power. Now, it is required to serve the state. The financial flows are redirected to the essentially political problems. There are three priority directions: investment projects in the area of state-owned companies, the social sphere, and geopolitics - consolidation of power, stability, and external expansion.
In fact, it is declared a transfer to the regime of mobilization. The slightest deviation from the state directives, attempts to put a priority on the interest of own business but not of political power will be stopped by the laws of war. Just for better adaptation of the new orders, the whirlwind of dismissals and appointments from the Kremlin Olympus has been made. “He showed something to remember” - as the Stanislav Govorukhin’s character stated in the film “Assa”.
The selection of ritual victims is also characteristic.The most striking example is, of course, Anatoly Eduardovich Serdyukov, a longtime friend and close associate of the president: a strong manager, not the worst minister - at least, who had a clear program of action (it is another question how well-founded the program was) and firmly implemented it, impeccably loyal. Nothing helped. Liberal approaches, even in purely technological aspects, do not go now. The lesson is directly addressed to the Prime Minister as well. Soon we will stop to hear the overtones of minimum insignificant opposition in the speeches of Dmitry Medvedev. The joke's over.
There remains one last question: why all this? What actually happened that this processes (in the broad and narrow sense) began in the autumn of 2012? Was it the political destabilization of the last year? Yes, but not only. The supreme power begins to discipline the ruling class. The situational greed of the bureaucracy and affiliated capital has reached a critical edge. It threatens the lowbred credibility of the Kremlin and feeds mass discontent.
In response, the power hierarchy starts to be rebuilt based on the most tried-and-true state personnel. It can be the type of Igor Sechin, who finally took the upper hand over his sworn friend and competitor Gennady Timchenko. It can be stated that an unprecedented tough anti-corruption campaign was launched in November and it is going on. The request for the campaign was being developed in the society since at least the middle of the 2000s.