Russian Authorities Determined to Control Oil Oligarchs

Vladimir Putin was not really kind to oligarchs during the latest meeting with them

It seems that Russian power industry representatives have had a very serious perception of an offer from Clearing House chairman, Sergey Stepashin. The chairman of the Russian Clearing House suggested a change of the taxation system in the oil industry. Russian oil businessmen have not shown any reaction to that yet. No wonder, a hurry is not good at all in this issue. However, there are no doubts that Sergey Stepashin will have to stand a mass of the so-called ordered criticism on the part of most respectable Russian media outlets. Dmitry Kozak, the deputy head of the presidential administration, has already had such experience, after he suggested the nationalization of Russian oil and gas industry. As a matter of fact, there is nothing surprising about this: Russian respectable media outlets are maintained by Russian power industry oligarchs. To all appearances, Sergey Stepashin was entrusted with announcing the new state policy towards the Russian business elite.

Indeed, the recent meeting between President Vladimir Putin and members of the presidential business council was not reported by the media much, although all those members represented Russian power industries. There was a reason not to report about that event, though. The president was not affectionate with the business elite. He was polite, but he was not affectionate. As soon as Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the head of the oil giant Yukos, complained of the state oil company Rosneft (the latter got the possession of the company Severnaya Neft (Northern Oil) from under Yukos’s nose), Vladimir Putin showed the oligarch his place. The president stated that Rosneft was a state company, which needed to extend its reserves. After that it became obvious that everyone is equal, although someone is more equal, so to speak. In addition to that, Putin’s past statement about equidistant oligarchs obtained an absolutely different sense. President Putin did not fail to remind that the company Yukos had serious problems with taxes. One may say that the discussion between the power and the national bourgeoisie was over very quickly. It did not even begin.

Everything was sorted out after that meeting. Oil oligarchs’ problems became clear: they can neither get oil and gas deposits in their possession, nor build their own pipelines due to the government impediment factor. The offensive that was launched by state power industry monopolies (Gazprom, Rosneft, Transfent) becomes understandable as well.

It goes without saying that Sergey Stepashin is categorized as a politician of a high level in Russia. He does not need any access to be aware of the real situation in the country. Furthermore, he perfectly fits for saying decisively important words, which are not comfortable to be uttered by the Russian government yet. Every word that Sergey Stepashin said was not said in vain. Stepashin said in an interview to a television channel (which was not a pro-presidential channel at all) two weeks ago that “oligarchs should share, or they would be shared otherwise.”

A weekend is a good time for releasing a statement, for there will be time to think it over. The past weekend in Russia lasted for three days instead of two (Military Man’s Day celebrations). This was probably the reason, why Sergey Stepashin decided to release an important statement. On Saturday, during his meeting with the deputies of the Kabardino-Balkaria republic’s parliament, he told them that Russian major oil companies underpaid billions of rubles of taxes to the budget of the country every year. As he said, one should think of introducing rent aspects in order to change the situation in the Russian power industry. Stepashin added that there would be no need of millions of fiscal bodies in that case, he said that there would be no need to look for the disadvantages of the law either. “Taxation is taken out of control with the help of various offshore zones and fake firms,” Stepashin claimed. According to his calculations, it would be possible for the budget to obtain additional five or six billion dollars every year.

The head of the Russian Clearing House substantiated his position, taking account of an opportunity that Russian and foreign liberal media might accuse the Russian government of the Stalinism retrieval. Such allegations have already appeared before, against the Russian president. In the words from Sergey Stepashin, such developed and democratic countries as Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Argentina have a system of rent payment. The fuel and energy complex for those countries is a priority both in home economic and in foreign economic activities. However, none of those countries can be accused of being authoritarian. Needless to mention that Russia wants to get in the line with them and to pull up the national bourgeoisie, which has been governing Russian natural resources in a rather aggressive way. Russian oligarchs keep on taking money out of the country, thinking that they can nominate an alternative candidacy to Vladimir Putin at the up-coming presidential election.

It deems, though, that the whole matter is not like that. It is not about getting rid of oligarchs, of course. This issue is about establishing the state control over them. What else can happen on the threshold of the presidential election? Historians know it very well that ten years after any revolutionary transformation, a society overcomes the consequences of that “revolution” and returns to the old model with new aspects of a new order. The rest is cast aside. It seems that the retrieval expectations have grown too long in Russia.

Dmitry Slobodanuk

Translated by Dmitry Sudakov

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Author`s name Olga Savka