Putin and Medvedev Clash over Expropriations

From Ariel Cohen’s contribution to the New York Times:

Furthermore, Medvedev and Kudrin would like to see Russia join the O.E.C.D. Herein lies the rub: Russia today doesn’t fit the organization’s criteria for property rights, transparency and the rule of law.

Corrupt Russian judges regularly take property away from foreigners, such as Norway’s Telenor. Russian law enforcers seized shares of value investors, such as Hermitage Capital, and then banished its owner, William Browder, from Russia. Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his partners and staff are facing a second round of trials for made-up crimes.

The St. Petersburg Forum also demonstrated how easily PresidentMedvedev can be upstaged by Putin and Sechin. Putin did not deign toshow up at all. Instead, he went to Pikalyovo, a shabby corporate townall but shut down by the crisis. There, on national TV, he tore intothe one-time Kremlin favorite and formerly the richest man in Russia,Oleg Deripaska.

Not only did he blast Deripaska and other “city fathers” inPikalyovo for incompetence and greed, he threatened to nationalizetheir cement and aluminum plants, echoing a bill pending in the Duma toseize properties affected by the recession.

By voicing an unmistakable threat that the Kremlin may resort tonationalization, Putin directly clashed with Medvedev, who called atthe forum “not to forget the freedoms which took centuries to achieve.”The Russian president also said that large state-owned enterprises area temporary anti-crisis tool, and eventually need to be privatized –something that Sechin and Putin publicly oppose.