The story of the head of AFK Sistema is indicative of the modern Russia. No one’s property is protected from taking, even if you regularly meet with the leaders of the state. After the Yukos case, such things surprise no one. It is much more interesting to try and figure out what has led to such a development.
One should not forget that Vladimir Yevtushenkov is the best practitioner of “Byzatian” ways of all the Russian multibillionaires and a grand master of intrigue. In any conflict, he would be in his element. His ability to turn into one belonging wherever has become his trademark business card.
In my opinion, the attack on the head of Sistema has three components: a past political component, a future political component and a mercantile one.
With the coming of Dmitry Medvedev to the Kremlin, a portion of the Russian business community and elite began to wonder whose servant to become as far as the tandem was concerned. Some betted on the junior member of the tandem. During the Medvedev presidency, Sistema totally swallowed BashNeft, won court litigations concerning BashNeft and got a license on one of the largest oil fields in the country. I believe that all that had become possible thanks to Medvedev’s personal involvement in those processes. No wonder that some internet sources would occasionally report on Medvedev’s relatives present among BashNeft shareholders. Today president Putin’s people are attacking the former darlings of fortune and taking away what has been earned by the sweat of their brow. To teach others a lesson, they are demonstrating who really is the boss. So it has happened to Serdyukov and Kerimov, and now to Vladimir Yevtushenkov.
The second political component is Moscow. It is no secret that in the late 1990s Yevtushenkov was Yuri Luzhkov’s closest assistant in the buildup of Otechestvo’s political structure. Yet, after the defeat in the Duma election, Yevtushenkov began to drift in the direction of the winners and soon belonged with the new members of Putin’s team: Kudrin, Gref, etc. The Kremlin liberals and the Moscow mayor have always fiercely opposed each other, and Yevtushenkov no longer could help but take part in attacks on his former patron. During the same period of time, he managed to become friends with future mayor Sobyanin. After Luzhkov’s dismissal, Sistema offices in fact turned into headquarters of the Moscow revolution, where the fate of the mayor’s former team was decided as well as that of their properties, and the capital city was in fact ruled by the Sobyanin-Yevtushenkov tandem. By putting a member of this tandem under house arrest, the other influential grouping is sending a signal to Sobyanin, often viewed by the media as a possible successor to Putin, as though telling him: go on serving the Muscovites and calm down.
As for the mercantile component, everything is clear there. Politics in Russia is not done without re-division of property. I think that to clean himself of money laundering Vladimir will have to part with BashNeft, pay a compensation for his intransigence in the amount announced by the winner party and continue doing business with his conscience clean.
His example is a lesson for others in Russia: in conditions of political unconsciousness of the public, change could be brought about only by big private business, which, after the Yevtushenkov story, must see even clearer that the Putin system will sooner or later get to them as well – unless, before that happens, they make an attempt to change the world for the better.