Stolen Twice By the Polittechnologist I nearly fell out of my chair as I listened to Putin’s recent “state of the union” address to the Federal Assembly. I couldn’t believe my ears – he had actually allowed the word “YUKOS” to pass his lips again for the first time in what had seemed like ages. This was obviously some kind of signal. I understood that something was going on politically in our country, something more important than Yeltsin’s funeral. After the “Vremya” news show at 9 PM Moscow time, I suddenly felt more respect for Putin than I ever had before: he said he was going to repair the stairwell of my apartment building with Khodorkovsky’s money. At last!!! Neither the moratorium on the treaty on troop deployment in Europe, nor atomic energy, nor cooperation with Iran and nanotechnologies, nor the development of the fishing industry nor even the Yeltsin library – nothing caused as much buzz in the back rooms after the president’s speech than the YUKOS money and the unrepaired apartment building stairwells. As I’m sure you understand, the plan is to spend that which has been confiscated from the prisoners of Chita to repair them. Let me say right off the bat – this is the most frightening problem in Russia. It’s as frightening here as AIDS is in Africa. Because nobody knows for sure how many people are infected with this virus and how many will die or become invalids and subsequently die anyway in the next 10 years. Maybe that’s why they’re focusing on filthy stairwells. But this is already not so frightening and not at all the main thing. And so, when both vice-premiers – Ivanov and Medvedev – and several governors and United Russia representatives all said how important it is to repair outdated housing and specifically to do this with what has been taken away from Khodorkovsky, I suddenly understood the sheer genius of the grand design of those who had inserted these words in the text of the president’s address to the Federal Assembly. Can you guess? No, the Kremlin did not want to whitewash its image in the west and with what’s still left of the liberal part of the Russian population, as in “Don’t even think we’re going to spend the YUKOS money improperly; behold – we’ll perform a noble task – we’ll repair dilapidated and decrepit apartments and stairwells”. Not at all. The PR was aimed at a completely different target, because nobody in the west could care less about the condition of the Russian housing stock, just like our liberals understand that the number of homeless people on our streets isn’t going to diminish any time soon. No, it’s about something else entirely. Back when I used to work in a certain government-funded organization, I knew very clearly that the most well-off person in it was not the director, but his deputy in charge of construction and repair work. Repairs took place in the organization every summer. And every year, the deputy director would buy himself a new car, even though his salary was only around $200 a month. It goes without saying that all the builders were friends of his and that the costs of the work had been inflated several times over in advance, and it goes without saying that he shared the spoils with all the construction company bosses. With time, everybody just closed their eyes to this, because everybody knew that the repairs were supplementary income for you know who. Everybody else “earned a bit extra” for themselves in other places and in other ways. And so, it has now been decided to conduct similar repairs with YUKOS’s money. The key word in the above sentence is “money”. “Repairs” – that is just the means to get this money from the treasury, a tried and true methodology with which the Italian mafia has a wealth of experience. And the fact that words about this appeared in the president’s address is merely the creation of a legal cover for a second round of stealing. First they stole Yuganskneftegas and other enterprises, and now they’re stealing the money the tax organs got out of this from the treasury. And here I’d thought that there was nothing going on in our country any more. I was wrong – there’s plenty going on! It’s not enough that they’re working on getting a second term for Khodorkovsky, they’re also going to re-steal what they’ve stolen from him, this time from the state. I may be wrong about this, and I’ll graciously admit my error when they actually show me the repaired stairwells and apartment buildings and convince me that the cost of all those repairs really is equal to the value of everything that was seized from YUKOS. But for now, I’ll just sit back and observe (as long as those who can not be named don’t come for me first) one of the greatest scams of the millennium.