Monday, January 22, 2018

Russian Orthodox Hierarch Urges Russians Not to Vote for Putin



Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 22 – Bishop Yevtikhiy, the former vicar of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Moscow eparchate and now the pastor of the Orthodox cathedral in Ishim has called on Russian Orthodox Believes “to in no case vote for Putin on March 18,” calling the Kremlin leader “a dark cloud” and even “anti-Christian” figure. 

            Other Orthodox priests have made similar appeals, Aleksandr Soldatov writes in Novaya gazeta today “but not of the serving hierarchs of the Moscow Patriarch.” Patriarch Kirill in fact has limited himself to calling on Russian to vote but not saying how they should cast their ballots (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2018/01/22/75230-pomazannik-okazalsya-antihristom).

                In a recent post on his VKontakte page, the bishop said that “if you consider that there is light within you … then voting for the dark” is totally unacceptable.  By his remarks about the similarity between communism and Christianity, Yevtikhiy added, Putin had shown himself to be not of the light but of the dark.

            As Soldatov observes, “it is no secret that in Putin’s ideas about Orthodoxy there is a great deal which is incompatible with Orthodox Christianity, but the official Russian Orthodox church which has agreed to play the role of the ideological department of the regime and the patriarch’s business project has encouraged the synthesis of the cross and the five-pointed star.”

            Many Orthodox faithful and even some deacons and priests like Andrey Kurayev have complained about this. Indeed, Deacon Kurayev has posted a screenshot of the bishop’s declaration on his own web page lest Yevtikhy be forced to take it down or even recant in the coming days.

            According to Soldatov, the bishop’s biography may explain why he is showing such independent mindedness. As a priest in the 1980s, he got into trouble with his own church bosses. Later, he joined with the new congregations of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad which opened parishes in Russia.

            Then, however, he got into difficulties with them and played a major role in promoting “’the reunification’ of the two churches, after which time he retired from his Moscow post and received “the sinecure” in his own home town of Ishim.  By breaking with the official line in this way, however, Yevtikhiy may make it easier for other Russians to do the same.

Putin Again Spending Far More to Host an International Athletic Meet than Anyone Else Ever Has, Yabloko Party Documents



Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 22 – Just as was the case with the Sochi Olympics in 2014, Vladimir Putin’s regime has already spent far more on preparations for the 2018 World Cup than any other host country in history, not only boost his and Russia’s prestige but also and perhaps even more important to use the event to pay off his cronies, Sergey Mitrokhin says.

            The Yabloko Party of which Mitrokhin is a leader has prepared a listing of how much and where Moscow has spent money getting the venue cities ready – for the numbers, see yabloko.ru/lp/gold/ -- and he reports that in the competition for spending, “Russia is the champion (echo.msk.ru/blog/sergei_mitrohin/2133212-echo/).

            According to the Yabloko calculations, Russia has spent on the construction or reconstruction of the eleven main arenas for the World Cup 212.5 billion rubles (3.5 billion US dollars), a figure “almost 100 billion rubles [1.6 billion US dollars) greater” that other governments would have spent to do the same thing.

            The Russian government has not released a listing of the general contractors for these jobs, Mitrokhin continues, but it certainly consists “almost entirely of the friends and comrades in arms of Putin.”  And the difference between what the construction should have cost and what it did almost certainly has ended up corruptly in their pockets.

            The 2018 World Cup “just like the 2014 Sochi Olympiad,” of course, “has two goals: One of them is ‘an orgy of prestige,’” which in this case Russia is unlikely to get even the short-term boost it did after the drug scandals put paid to its “winning.”  And “the other is ‘a Bacchanalia of diversion’” of state funds into the hands of the oligarchs.

            This money “will not make any contribution to the development of mass sport,” Mitrokhin says; and it is offensive not only because of the massive corruption but also because of the ways that this money could have been better used to assist Russians overcome the hard times they are now experiencing.

What If Russian Oligarchs Pull Their Money from the West But Don’t Return It to Russia?



Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 22 – Most commentators have suggested that the imposition of personal sanctions on Russian oligarchs and businessmen will force them to return their money to Russia, potentially hurting some in the West but likely helping Vladimir Putin by providing the Kremlin leader with an infusion of new money in Russia.

            But there is another possibility, one that Moscow analyst Vasily Makarov points to on the Versiya portal today: the Russian rich may very well decide to pull their funds from the US but park it in offshore tax havens instead of repatriating the funds (versia.ru/viktor-vekselberg-izbavlyaetsya-ot-aktivov-na-zapade-no-ne-speshit-vozvrashhat-dengi-v-rossiyu).

            On the one hand, that will protect those who own the funds from the risk of losing them in Putin’s Russia.  But on the other, it may give both them and at least in principle their Kremlin bosses the chance to play one Western government off against another, with the promise or threat of moving these funds to or away from this or that country.

            The possibility that the flow of Russian capital out of the US and the EU without going back to Russia at least immediately, Makarov says, has been raised by the behavior of Viktor Vekselberg, who not only has shifted money out of London where his company is incorporated but talked openly about not wanting to return it to the Russian Federation.

            Vekselberg sold off more than 330 million US dollars in assets in London at the end of last year but shortly thereafter declared that he had no interest in repatriating the money via the purchase of special foreign loan bonds with the Russian finance ministry has announced plans to issue.

            The Russian entrepreneur said, Makarov continues, that he wanted to keep his money working for him and indicated that in his view, conditions in Russia were not suitable for that, given the various taxes and fees Moscow has been imposing on Russian business in order to fill government coffers.

            Other Russian businessmen may be thinking and doing the same thing, the Versiya analyst continues, “but all of them have tried to keep it quiet.”  Now that Vekselberg has gone public, however, the number seeking this way out for themselves but not for Moscow is likely to grow.