Vadim Nikitin

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Late last week, Sergei Guriev, a respected economic adviser to the Russian prime minister, Dmitri Medvedev, announced from Paris that he was not returning to Russia. The former rector of Moscow’s liberal New Economic School, where Barack Obama spoke in 2009, had come under investigation from the state prosecutor’s office after criticizing the ongoing incarceration of the former Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

“I won’t go back even if there is a small chance of losing my freedom,” he told a reporter for this newspaper. “I have not done anything wrong and do not want to live in fear.”

Guriev’s self-exile is the latest in a series of recent departures from government by wealthy, educated and Westernized elites who had aligned themselves with the leadership’s more liberal Medvedev-led faction, which as become increasingly beleaguered since President Vladimir Putin’s controversial re-election in May 2012.…  Seguir leyendo »

Something doesn't make sense about Alexei Navalny, and it's not just the trumped-up charges against him. The Russian corruption whistleblower and opposition leader, who will be formally arraigned this Wednesday for allegedly embezzling half a million dollars from a state-owned timber company in 2009, is in a peculiar bind. "The case against Navalny is a case against us all," chant his admirers. But if that is true, why are people who seem to otherwise trust Navalny's anti-corruption work apparently so reluctant to support his political bid?

Recent polls by the independent Levada Centre show Navalny's name recognition rising steadily over the past three years, to nearly 40% in March 2013.…  Seguir leyendo »

He was the original oligarch, dubbed the godfather of the Kremlin by the late journalist Paul Klebnikov. But by the time Boris Berezovsky’s lifeless body was dragged out of his bathtub on Saturday, the 67-year-old was a broken man who had stopped seeing friends and rarely ventured outside. The day before his death, he told a Forbes reporter that he had lost the will to live.

Whether he took his own life or died of heart failure — it is not yet known — Berezovsky was destroyed by the Russia he almost single-handedly created. While he bitterly hated the current regime, it was Berezovsky who first pioneered the country’s crony capitalism, masterminded its first managed elections, blurred the line between the media and the government, and even helped install Vladimir Putin into the presidency.…  Seguir leyendo »

When the French actor Gérard Depardieu collected his Russian passport this week, the English language media erupted with puzzlement and mockery. One online commentator called the corpulent defector “shameless” for becoming “a citizen of a dictatorship just to avoid taxes.”

Tax exile is nothing new, of course. European countries have a long history of wooing one another’s rich with offers of bigger salaries and smaller government. Last year, Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain announced that he would “roll out the red carpet” for any French businessmen willing to take up his country’s lower tax rates.

Yet while few batted an eye when a slew of prominent Parisian financiers moved their families (and bank accounts) en masse across the channel in December, Depardieu’s action seems to have crossed an imaginary line in many people’s minds.…  Seguir leyendo »

From Madonna to Bjork, from the elite New Yorker to the populist Daily Mail, the world united in supporting Russia’s irreverent feminist activists Pussy Riot against the blunt cruelty inflicted on them by the state. It may not have stopped Vladimir Putin’s kangaroo court from sentencing them to two years in prison on charges of hooliganism, but blanket international media pressure helped turn the case into a major embarrassment for the Kremlin.

Yet there is something about the West’s embrace of the young women’s cause that should make us deeply uneasy, as Pussy Riot’s philosophy, activism and even music quickly took second place to its usefulness in discrediting one of America’s geopolitical foes.…  Seguir leyendo »