Lebedev Goes Down
Recent days have seen a disturbing trend as oligarch after oligarch bows and scrapes before Vladimir Putin (so-called “president” Dima Medvedev did the same in his recent press conference). By the far the most ominous of these has been Alexander Lebedev.
Lebedev is the publisher of Novaya Gazeta, by far Russia’s most important source of information about the Putin regime. He openly admits that he has been receiving relentless pressure from the KGB on his banking business, and that he has decided to side with Putin rather than become a jailed pauper like Mikkhail Khodorkovsky. The tycoon posted a statement on his website stating that his “Our Capital” movement had decided to join the All-Russia People’s Front created by Putin earlier this month.
Lebedev’s National Reserve Bank was raided last year by masked goons sent by Putin to make sure Lebedev understands he will not be allowed to criticize or challenge Putin during the election season.
How long will it now be before Novaya Gazeta falls? It’s only protection now is the invovement of Mikhail Gorbachev, a man who has no formal powerbase and no substantial assets. If Lebedev pulls the rug out from under the mighty little paper, it will have little chance of survival.
And what, if anything, will the people of Russia do if Novaya Gazeta falls? Will they lift a finger to protect it? Or will they, just as they did in the time of Stalin, not only look the other way as Putin erases the final remnants of civil society in their country and obliterates their children’s future but, in many cases, actively help Putin do so?
We think the answer is obvious, and that accordingly the people of Russia deserve the malignant fate that awaits them.