The Naked Fraud of the Russian Stock Market
“You get your meager dividends — a couple of rubles a year, your tea and sandwich at the annual meeting, or if you decide to fight it all, you get a lot of headache — this is all you can get in Russia for owning stocks.”
That was Russian attorney Alexander Navalny, speaking to the Associated Press last week, condemning the naked fraud that is the Russian stock market. When Navalny visited the annual meeting of Surgutneftegaz, of Russia’s third-largest oil company, and asked the CEO who owned the company, he was told by the company’s boss that he did not know and could not find out.
There was nothing surprising in this answer. Crusading businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky struggled valiantly to throw open the locked doors of Russian corruption and bring Western transparency to Russian business. For his trouble, Khodkorkovsky was thrown in to prison, likely for life. He was lucky; when attorney Sergei Magnitsky tried it, he was killed outright.
Navalny is perfectly clear in his diagnosis of the Putin economy: ” This system cannot live for ever — it is distorted, corrupted and ineffecient. Police tell me to my face: ‘You’ll never win a case in Russia’, so it’s like knocking your head against the wall. But I believe if you continue to knock, this wall will eventually come down.”
Mr. Navalny is a man after our own heart, a true Russian patriot — indeed, a hero. He knows that no nation, least of all one as weak and sick as Russia, can survive this type of deep-rooted systemmatic corruption. He knows that if patriots like him are not prepared to risk their freedom, and indeed their lives, to fight back, then Russia will go the way of the USSR.
We wish Mr. Navalny Godspeed. We hope he can somehow avoid the fate of Khodorkovsky and Magnitsky, as he has managed to do so far, and that the increasing paralysis and failure of the Russian government will lead to a groundswell of opposition that Navalny can ride to victory.
But we believe he’ll soon be jailed or killed, and we believe that when it happens the people of Russia will shrug like cowards, as they have always done, and turn their backs on him, his family and his successors. In so doing, they’ll send the clear message that Russia does not want to be saved, is not worth saving, and this will discourage others like Navalny from working to save Russia from certain doom.