– Russia’s former finance chief attacks Kremlin over fake democracy (Telegraph, Sep. 27, 2011):
Russia’s ex-finance minister dealt a fresh blow to the Kremlin on Tuesday, disclosing that it had asked him to lead a fake political party but that he had refused to take part in the deception.
Firing a parting shot at the Kremlin a day after he was unceremoniously forced out of his job for public dissent, Alexei Kudrin became the latest prominent insider to blow the whistle on Russia’s democracy as Vladimir Putin prepares to controversially assume the presidency for a third time next year. Mikhail Prokhorov, Russia’s third richest man, recently denounced the entire political system as a cynically state-managed sham, while former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has repeatedly warned that the country is heading for a revolution unless it undertakes serious reform.
Mr Kudrin has served as Russia’s finance minister with distinction since 2000 and analysts said his decision to speak out only reinforced the idea that battle lines are being drawn inside Russia’s elite among liberal reformers like Mr Kudrin and neo-Soviet hawks who want to maintain the status quo.
For now, it looks like the hawks are in the ascendancy. Mr Prokhorov, who is worth an estimated 11.5 billion pounds, said he thought the standoff between the two clans would lead to real changes. “We stand on the verge of very important changes,” he forecast on Tuesday.
Mr Kudrin’s statement is likely to make uncomfortable reading for the Kremlin. He said he had been asked to lead the Right Cause party, a supposedly liberal party set up by the Kremlin to create the illusion of real political competition, but had refused because it stuck in his craw.
He called the party “an artificial project that in fact discredits the idea of liberal democracy,” an opinion likely to be shared by Mr Prokhorov who briefly led the party before leaving what he called a “Kremlin puppet party” in disgust.
Mr Kudrin said the real reason he had broken with the Kremlin at the weekend however was because his warnings that it was notching up excessive spending commitments were repeatedly ignored. “I made my decision and stated my case. There was nothing emotional about it,” he said.
He caused uproar on Saturday when he recoiled against the idea that President Dmitry Medvedev would swap jobs with Mr Putin next year and become prime minister. Mr Putin called for “discipline” on Tuesday, while Mr Medvedev repeated his calls for anyone who disagreed with his policies to leave the government.