Saturday, March 19, 2005

Chubais

This should have been posted a couple of days ago. Blogspot often isn't ready when I am so here we are:

Anatoly Chubais was the focus of an assassination attempt yesterday. A roadside bomb was detonated as his two car convoy passed on the way into Moscow. The assailants fired what were probably AK-47s. (High velocity 7.62 round, cheap to buy, easy to get a hold of and very nasty; can penetrate some body armor and armor plating.) Chubais’s armored BMW was able to drive away even though it was hit in the windshield and front tire. The guards in the second car returned fire but the assailants, dressed in fatigues—special forces either moonlighting or supplementing an income made in the new economy?-- made a getaway into the woods where a car was said to have been waiting for them.

The news reported to day that two had been arrested in connection with this attempt. Chubais thinks he knows who bought the contract on him. And his political party, I can’t remember the name of if right now, says that it was politically motivated.

Chubais is not all that well liked in Russia. He was the one who spearheaded the economic reforms that ushered in the Wild West capitalism that has only diminished somewhat recently. Those reforms made the oligarchs, allowing the concentration of capital into the hands of these few. These reforms are seen by many as having impoverished most Russians. So there are a lot of people in Russia who might think about doing something like this. But with two assailants and roadside bombs, it would be hard to believe that it was some disgruntled pensioner looking to give Chubais his comeuppance.

It might be because of business interests. Chubais is the head of United Energy Systems, which is supposed to be attempting to bring some competition into the energy sector of Russia. That might tick some people off. The Kremlin thinks differently about UES, accusing management of trying to establish a new energy monopoly. The Kremlin may be making these claims for political purposes—a lot of what comes out of there seems to be for that reason these days—but they are not retrograde enough to try and deal with it by assassination. And Chubais may be a leader of the liberals that would be in opposition to Putin, but the liberals are all but out of power and pretty insignificant. That means Chubais is no political threat to the president, even if it were assumed he would deal with him this way. And I for one don’t believe he or the government would.

As to any business reason, assassination was a tool for dealing with the competition in Russia or for consolidating power in a sector in the past, the bad old 1990s. That sort of thing seems to have diminished quite a bit but it still happens. Chubais might just be in the way.

If it were some sort of old score that is being settled, it could be from anything. But there doesn’t seem to be all that much old score settling this way. Assassination has been a business tool—no offense, this is just business, you understand—not one used for revenge, though it does happen. So I guess it could be that but in the majority of the cases it would be less likely to be the reason.

Who knows though in the end. With the arrest of these two, I hope we end up finding out. The problem is that most of these cases never end up being solved. The suspicion is that those who do these sorts of things have powerful allies that allow them to escape prosecution.

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