Putin's "secret agents" clear the roads. For whom?

PutinIt is often said that military and security ex-officers stand behind actions against Russian oligarchs, independent mass-media, and lowering the role of International business in Russian economy to minimum.

A quarter of "elite" in the current Russian government are security forces veterans. They occupy about 2,000 important places.


Three of the regional governors used to be high-rank KGB officers, just like the heads of "Slavneft", "Domodedovo Airways", and many Moscow and St. Petersburg big companies.


For many years, Alexander Lebedev has been a spy. Having finished MGIMO (Moscow State University of International Relations, a p level education unit in Russia), he became an expert on foreign debt and economics of the Soviet block countries. He was sent to London as a KGB agent in 1980ies.


Today Lebedev changed from spying for businessmen to being one of them. He is the president of the National Reserve bank and an important shareholder in "Aeroflot". Finally, he is balloting to become a Moscow mayor.


A history of a KGB agent going business is not rare for Russia. On contrary, number of people with military and security background at the key places in government, state-owned and private companies has risen dramatically since Vladimir Putin, an ex-KGB officer became the Russian President.


It is often said that these ex-officers stand behind actions against Russian oligarchs, independent mass-media, and lowering the role of International business in Russian economy to minimum. Analysts argue that this force is the most powerful in politics who supported arrest of Khodorkovsky, who criticized their role in Putin cabinet.

According to one group of analyst, Putin himself is not in charge for that arrest, and tries to minimize negative outcomes of it (especially for international investors), and this means military ex-officers became so powerful that even president can not fully control them. 

"These people use authoritarian methods. They do not understand and do not like democracy. They think that the most important of all Putin is doing for Russia is re-establishing their status, empowering them again. We speak about the whole system. This plan is coded "establishing of order in the country", says Olga Kryshtanskaya, who conducted a study of Putin elite for the Russian Academy of sciences.
She has got close to many people of this circle during the study, and argues that they are strictly against political activities of Khodorkovsky.


Khodorkovsky crossed the line when came to Kremlin in normal clothes one day: an unofficial jacket, a loosen shirt. "He appeared before the audience, including Putin, without a tie", tells Kryshtanovskaya. "These people told it was just out of any norms, something they could not stand anymore"


A last month's departure of Alexander Voloshin was another victory of the former military functoneers, as Voloshin used to protect interest of big business and pro-western reforms. He left right after Khodorkovsky was arrested, what looked like an end to the only group opposed to ex-militarists in the government. 


He goes on: "It would be unjust to see Putin as a holy lamb, surrounded and controlled by a group of wolves, who finally got the power. Putin is a wolf himself. And I'm trying to explain to everyone who wants to hear: security and military officers today dream only about re-establishing of totalitarian state in Russia'


A moral crisis spread over KGB veterans with the fall of communism in the 90ies. It suddenly appeared that no one needs material they produced. In foreign embassies they were stared at as "plagued'


Then came capitalism. New companies appeared; regional governments were formed. Federal government needed analysts to create Constitution, juridical system and market economy just as well. The best (and only) analysts in Russia were all in KGB, who gathered and worked on the information during all the years, but kept silence about findings. These findings suddenly became treasures for both government and business.


A group most closely linked to the military and security officers is National Strategy Council, which claimed in its report in the beginning of the year that oligarchs plan a "revolution" to take over the country.

Stanislav Belkovsky, one of those who composed that report, says that Russia should not be afraid of the military and security officers, as they do not seek for power for themselves. "You should understand their psychology. They are an instrument of power, but not the ones struggling to gain power".


Belkovsky reminds how the statute of Felix Dzerzhinsky was taken down its pedestal on Lubanka square by democratic crowd. "There were two thousands KGB officers in the building behind it, all armed, whose duty was security of the statute. No one went out, but looked from the windows. Why? Because there was no order."


The question remains: for whom former military and security officers are clearing the ways today?

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Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey