A Tale of Two Russian Oligarchs
Recently the world learned that Russian oligarch Alexander Lebedev would purchase the British newspaper The Independent and that his colleague and Mikhail Prokhorov, who is purchasing the New Jersey Nets basketball team, would be featured on the leading American news program 60 Minutes.
So the question arises, of course: Are these new-and-improved Khodorkovskian oligarchs, who are building power bases abroad they can use to to challenge the corrupt KGB regime of Vladimir Putin, or are they Putin’s agents, infiltrating our society as a way of bolstering Putin’s power? Lebedev, who also owns the mighty Novaya Gazeta, is a KGB spy just like Putin.
Our answer is simple: It just doesn’t matter.
Scandal in Sochi
Last week, the Kremlin disqualified the outspoken billionaire Alexander Lebedev from appearing on the April 26 ballot for mayor of the southern Russian city of Sochi, where the 2014 winter olympics are scheduled to be held.
Lebedev, whose name means “swan,” is easily the most enigmatic living Russian. A former KGB agent just like Vladimir Putin (he worked in the UK while Putin was in Germany), he somehow found the capital to create a bank holding company which purchased a tiny struggling bank called National Reserve in 1995. Within three years that bank had grown to become one of the ten largest in Russia, and it was one of only two of those top ten to survive the 1998 financial collapse that brought Putin to power. Today, Lebedev (who is close friends with former Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev) not ony owns part of the Russia’s most strident opposition newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, but also owns the major British paper The Evening Standard. He also owns big chunks of Aeroflot, Gazprom and Sberbank. Forbes says he’s worth $3 billion and the 385th-richest man on the planet.