Bizarre, Even by Russian Standards
And that’s saying something!
The Moscow Times reports that
Exactly a year ago, then-President Vladimir Putin warned that the liberal opposition was trying to return to the power it enjoyed in the 1990s by staging street protests and enriching themselves, while bringing the country to its knees. Now former Union of Right Forces head Nikita Belykh, one of the leaders of the liberal opposition who was arrested at a Dissenters’ March this spring, will likely become governor of the Kirov region after President Dmitry Medvedev nominated him for the post Monday. Belykh said he accepted the nomination because the position was “very interesting from a professional point of view. I understand how to do it, and it is interesting because it is a big challenge. I have not said that people should not cooperate with the powers that be.” Several opposition figures, including former SPS activist Maria Gaidar, have accused Belykh of striking a deal with the Kremlin to destroy SPS.
Belykh claims that he plans to work against the Kremlin from the inside, making common cause with like-minded such as Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, Central Bank chief Sergei Ignatyev and Federal Anti-monopoly Service head Igor Artemyev.
What are we to make of this? Has the Kremlin shown yet another sign of weakness in light of the massive economic caststrophe it is facing, or is Belykh just one more sellout to the Kremlin’s brutal repression?
Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov said Belykh had made an “ethical mistake” accepting the nomination because he would be working for a Kremlin “that shot at Beslan’s children and turned a blind eye when Anna Politkovskaya was killed.” He said Belykh “was following in the footsteps of SPS co-founder Anatoly Chubais, head of the State Nanotechnology Corporation, and Leonid Gozman, a former SPS leader who now is a co-head of Right Cause” and condemned him, stating: “From a political point of view, we now belong to two different camps.”
Even if Belykh has not gone over to the Dark Side, this hardly means his appointment is benign. The MT notes: “Belykh may turn into a ‘poison pill’ for liberals. If he fails in Kirov, which has one of Russia’s least-developed regional economies, the Kremlin might use it against the liberals, saying their approaches are of no use in real life, said Alexei Mukhin, head of the Center for Political Information.”
So the only way the Kremlin can possibly lose from this appointment is if Belykh is incorruptible, immune to intimidation and if he makes one of Russia’s most disastrous regions a thriving success story.
And if that were to happen, he’d also have to be bullet proof.