Vlad and his trained cronies are the best travelling circus in the world. Its travel from Petersburg to Moscow is particularly entertaining.
When Vlad moved from his post as Petersburg’s deputy mayor to bigger and better things in Moscow, he brought his whole gang… sorry, I mean team, with him. Most members were Vlad’s comrades-at-arms in the KGB, so mutual understanding wasn’t a problem.
Those who are curious about the team’s shenanigans should Google Marina Salye, the Petersburg politician who a few years ago published a dossier implicating Putin et al in pilfering on a massive scale, to the tune of $100 million-plus.
But one always seeks fresh material, and this was provided a few days ago. The Petersburg businessman Freidzon gave an interview to Radio Liberty, in which he elucidated the team’s modus operandi.
He had to accept Putin as a silent partner in his firm, and Vlad was satisfied with a modest four per cent share. The unspoken understanding was that he’d take either a piece of the action or a piece out of Mr Freidzon, who was wise enough to make the right choice.
In addition, he had to keep greasing Vlad’s palm with whatever amounts Vlad thought fair, usually $10,000 at a time. Mr Freidzon stresses that Putin, being royalty in the making, never sullied his hands with the folding stuff. Instead he’d just summon Mr Freidzon for a chat, during which he’d absent-mindedly jot down a numeral on a pad. The businessman would then pass the specified sum to Alexei Miller on his way out.
Vlad thereby showed that KGB tradecraft was useful in covering one’s tracks. As a KGB case officer, he also knew how to be loyal to his assets. Hence, when Vlad became national leader, he not only brought Miller with him to Moscow, but put him in charge of Gazprom, the world’s largest gas producer.
One hand washes the other and all that, so Miller was happy to do a Freidzon and hand over to Vlad a piece of the Gazprom action as well, and, if rumours are to be believed, a considerably larger chunk than a paltry four per cent. I wish I could put a monetary value on Vlad’s reputed 15 per cent share, but my counting ability doesn’t go that high.
Sergei Ivanov is another one of Vlad’s colleagues from the good old days of the Petersburg KGB, in which he actually outranked Vlad. He now heads Vlad’s personal administration, and it’s his job to put out fires – such as the one conflagrated by the Freidzon interview.
Apparently the fire spread to Western media, with an unspecified London newspaper and an American news channel daring to ask Gen. Ivanov for a clarification.
What they got instead was a torrent of abuse. Speaking on Russia Today, the good General waxed indignant about “the libellous statements about the circle of Russia’s head of state which often appear in foreign press.”
“Some articles appearing in Western media maintain that President Putin and his retinue are utterly corrupt and are concealing their huge wealth; even accusations of links with the criminal underworld sometimes slip in.”
Crikey. Just goes to show how deep Western media have sunk. Why, those running dogs of Wall Street and the City of London dare not only to read incriminating evidence but even to publish it.
Clarification? There’s nothing to clarify. And if you insist there is, read up on the cases of Messrs Litvinenko, Perepelichny, Berezovsky et al. Remember what happened to them?
Don’t know about Western media, but Mr Freidzon’s memory is in working order, and his interview was removed from the Radio Liberty site the day after it appeared. The text was replaced with an apology, to the effect that it had been removed on the interviewee’s request, as he is concerned about his safety. Obviously, Vlad’s KGB colleagues had dropped a quiet word into Mr Freidzon’s shell-like.
Meanwhile, the state of Russia’s economy is such that some responsible citizens are concerned about the cost of staging the 2018 World Cup. Not to worry, according to Vlad’s trained MP Alexander Khinstein.
He has pointed out that prisoners aren’t being used as effectively as in Stalin’s days. Why not use them, for example, to do logging in the Siberian taiga? Anyone who has read The Gulag Archipelago could have answered that question, but there was no need. It was rhetorical.
However, by way of concrete immediate proposal, Deputy Khinstein has tabled a bill solving the fiscal problems of hosting the World Cup. According to this legislation, all the necessary facilities could be built by prisoners, otherwise known as slave labour.
This cost-cutting measure is expected to sail through the legislative process, such as it is in Russia. No doubt it’ll be warmly and loudly welcomed by the population at large, about half of whom confess to nostalgia for Stalin’s way of running the country.
I, on the other hand, detect a spot of KGB perfidy in this idea. Vlad has used his Duma mouthpiece to make sure Russia finally wins a World Cup.
Since most countries in the world are still squeamish enough to boycott any event made possible by slaves, only North Korea is likely to take part. The organisers would thus be able to dispense with time-consuming preliminaries and proceed straight to the Russia-North Korea final.
Vlad’s bailiwick would be the odds-on favourite in such a confrontation, thereby demonstrating to the world the strength of Vlad’s leadership. Perhaps Peter Hitchens would like to present the trophy.