Editorial: Is it the shoes?
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, left, and President Vladimir Putin walk after the president delivered his annual state of the nation address in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. Dmitry Astakhov/ Sputnik, Government Press Service Pool photo via AP
The story begins with a pair of Nike Air Max 95 shoes with neon-green soles. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was photographed wearing them; emails stolen from his iPhone by dissident Russian hackers show they, along with several other articles of clothing Medvedev has been seen in, were ordered online and delivered to an address linked to a web of companies and charities controlled by close confidants and relatives. After months spent probing the network, the Anti-Corruption Foundation, headed by opposition activist Alexei Navalny, has released a video and documentation it says show that Medvedev has accumulated more than $1 billion worth of property, including vast estates in Russia and Tuscany and two yachts.
Medvedev’s spokesperson shrugged off the story, as did the Kremlin. But as of Thursday, Navalny’s biting, often humorous and slickly produced video (in Russian with English subtitles) had been viewed 7.4 million times on YouTube and attracted 40,000 comments. It’s a testimony not only to the staggering corruption of the regime of Vladimir Putin, but also to the power of the Internet and social media to expose it and inform Russians about it.
Navalny guides viewers through a dazzling tour of Medvedev’s purported properties, recorded by drones that flew over the high walls surrounding the estates. A sprawling chalet in Sochi, site of the 2014 Winter Olympics, contains distinctive lampposts that appear in the background of Medvedev’s own Instagram photos. One of his yachts was photographed at the dock of his huge estate outside Moscow. In the Kursk region, home of Medvedev’s ancestors, another vast estate includes vineyards, as does a property in Tuscany.
Navalny’s conclusion is stark: “Medvedev can steal so much and so openly because Putin does the same, only on a grander scale; because everyone in government does the same, because the judges and the prosecutors and the special services are also doing the same. . . . The system is so rotten that there is nothing healthy left.”
The opposition leader, who shook up the Kremlin by leading street protests in 2011 and 2012 and capturing a reported 27 percent of the vote in Moscow’s 2013 mayoral election, appeals to Russians to do their part by sharing the video with friends and by signing petitions in support of his candidacy for president in 2018. It is doubtful that Navalny will be allowed to run in that election, presumably against Putin; that was the point of the recent criminal case against him. But the exposure of Medvedev - who has portrayed himself as a corruption-fighting technocrat - and the impressive online response to it offer hope that Putin’s regime can be weakened by the revelation of its crimes.
The Trump administration, which has been backed up by Russian propaganda outlets in denouncing reports on its own activities as “fake news,” can hardly be expected to assist courageous dissidents such as Navalny in exposing truths about the Kremlin. But other Western governments and nongovernmental organizations should do what they can to help. Disseminating evidence of Putin’s corruption would be an appropriate response to Russia’s disinformation campaigns in the West.
The Kremlin is simply dismissing the allegations against Medvedev, so far:
More: Russia dismisses sweeping corruption allegations against MedvedevMOSCOW — Anyone following the uproar in Washington over allegations of inappropriate ties to Russia within the Trump administration might be interested in Moscow’s reaction to sweeping corruption charges the country’s most recognizable Kremlin opponent has leveled against Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
Crickets, pretty much.
Alexei Navalny, who has said he will run for president in 2018, released last week a report and a 50-minute video detailing allegations that Medvedev has funneled more than $1 billion in bribes through companies and charities run by his associates to acquire vineyards, luxury yachts and lavish mansions. The Russian government quickly dismissed the accusations as an attention-grabbing stunt by a self-proclaimed presidential candidate with no chance of winning.
Navalny already, last year, published drone footage of Medvedev's huge, luxurious estates:
Viral Drone Video Exposes Luxury Getaway of Putin?s PM Medvedev - The Daily Beast
Medvedev Manor: Navalny Reveals Plush Estate Used By PM
Now, Medvedev has responded by blocking Navalny on Instagram: Russia's Prime Minister Responds to Corruption Allegations by Blocking Opposition Leader on Instagram
But this may be far more serious for Medvedev than many people realize.
Last year, in November, then Minister of Economy, Aleksey Ulyukaev, a close Medvedev associate
was suddenly arrested by federal authorities, I wrote about it here: Holy fucking crap...
At the time, I saw much talk, online, that this was an attack on Medvedev himself. That there are other powerful people in Russia, other top officials, plotting to take him down and grab his place as Prime Minister.
At least two big names were mentioned, over and over:
Valentina Matvienko, former Governor of Saint Petersburg, now Speaker of Federation Council, Russian senate, and, effectively, third most powerful official in Russia
It was speculated back in 2012 that Matvienko was secretly attempting to knock down Medvedev and take over the government from him, become number two, instead of three, join Putin in the Duumvirate
At that time, I guess her plot failed.
Now, some say, she is coming at Medvedev again, and this Navalny revelation may also be a part of this. I am not saying he is not a dissident. But, there is nothing stopping him from allying with some Gods of the Russian Olympus against others, if it benefits him
Another name that's out there is Igor Sechin, the head of Rosneft
Sechin may also be angling for the PM office; or simply acting against Medvedev out of some personal rivalry between them.
Either way, it is also said that Putin may be tired of shielding Medvedev too. Medvedev is becoming a burden and a liability. He is unpopular, not only because of his corruption, but because, unlike Putin, he doesn't even have a tough guy persona, which appeals to a big segment of the Russian people. He acts like a Western urban hipster nerd, with his iPhone and such. He has pushed some good things, like Skolkovo: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skolko...ovation_Center
But, he also lacks any respect from the populace. To Putin, he seems only to be holding him back and dragging him down. There is a LOT of speculation now that Putin may indeed dump Medvedev before the 2018 Election and elevate someone else to his place. Maybe Madam Matvienko. That would be interesting. A women heading Russian government for first time in a very long time. Of course, she is as corrupt and crooked as all of them... But, still.