We’ve been carefully following the story of Sergei Storchak’s arrest and the alleged campaign to undermine Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin. We are fortunate to have just received “hot off the press” an exclusive analytical dispatch on the situation from a frequent reader and informant of ours, who is a well connected Russian government adviser in Moscow. For many understandable reasons, he wishes to remain anonymous, as the article speculates who is behind this indirect attempt to seize control of the state budget at a time of extraordinary yet well concealed instability in the Russian government as the managed elections approach. Our contributor’s article raises some interesting questions: Is there a connection between Storchak’s arrest and the spy wars? What does the timing tell us about who wants to seize power from whom? What indicators should Kremlin-watchers keep their eyes on to know what’s going on in this case?
Storchak and the Indirect Attack on KudrinHere’s the short view: this arrest of Storchak is almost certainly not legitimate. After talking with all my contacts and reading all the available material on the arrest and investigation, I think it is the beginning of a major personal attack on Kudrin, with the goal of taking over the Finance Ministry – and more generally to control the state budget as the most important lever of power.So far Kudrin has been one on the most powerful of the Kremlin elite – especially within his own sphere – boasting an independent avenue of access to Putin (many others only gain influence to the president through their intermediaries). In late September he was appointed Deputy Prime Minister, making him just as powerful as Medvedev and Ivanov. He is a so-called “untouchable” – immune from a frontal attack.This explains how the attack on Storchak is a way to indirectly attack Kudrin (with specific subsequent steps to be decided upon as the situation develops).The Sechin – Patrushev group evidently wish to take over all the real pillars of power in anticipation of Putin’s stepping down the next year. This way, no matter who will be appointed, they will be unable to amass any real or influence to dislodge them from their entrenched positions in government. As such, this step shares similarity with other moves – much like YUKOS, Litvinenko, Bulbov, etc.It is certainly worth carefully watching the following indicators for more information:1. Putin’s reaction. Compare it to his reaction to Bulbov’s arrest. Bulbov was charged with illegal eavesdropping. However, he was eavesdropping on high-ranking FSB people involved in controlling smuggling channels from China. And of course he was eavesdropping ultimately not for Cherkesov, but for Putin. Thus, FSB arrests a guy who does legwork for Putin personally – and Putin does not even make a squeak. Interesting what his reaction will be now – an indirect attack on his SPB friend of long standing, Kudrin. If none, then it means that Putin no longer has real power – and everyone in Moscow will know that. At once. That is why the case ranks up there with major provocations like Litvinenko.2. Charges. So far Storchak has been charged with ridiculous things. He is generally considered as a squeaky clean guy as far as corruption is concerned – no allegations of anything whatsoever. The only things they came up so far is preparation of a crime consisting in elaboration of a position on the former USSR debt. To put it bluntly, they claim he was discussing the possibility of selling stale Soviet debt at a discount. They did not even bother to fabricate a specific name of a supposed beneficiary (so far the firm that they have mentioned has nothing at all to do with it). If they stick with these kind of vague charges without inventing some type of corruption, it is an open war on Kudrin and others of a non-KGB extraction in the government: they are as good as charged with a criminally negligent policies. Everything that Storchack has been charged with so far has had Kudrin’s explicit sanction. Compare it to the charges invented for the YUKOS case – first they charge Malakhovsky-Pereversin, after a low profile court finds them guilty they present exactly the same ridiculous charges to MBK and PLL. We are dealing with men that prefer to test out a strategy first like a dress rehearsal – if the reaction is suitably feeble, they proceed to the primary target.3. Press campaign. Recently, FSB attacks have been accompanied with smear campaigns in the press. It would be an especially telling sign if an article were to appear in TVOI DEN, which is has always been considered to have an exceptional inside track with FSB.If in the coming days and weeks we begin to see the familiar patterns emerge around these areas, we should brace ourselves for a significant domino effect. It’s a high stakes game, from which only a few could hope to benefit.