Wednesday, October 29, 2003

BBC NEWS - Key Kremlin figure 'quits'


This is the same chap who recently shocked the Russian and Ukrainian press by threatening to bomb the Ukraine at a press conference on a minor border dispute in the Straits of Kerch. I wonder whether that had something to do with it..or perhaps he was trying to embarrass Putin? Still, it's very depressing to be obliged to support someone like Khodorkovski, whose record is as dodgy as only an oligarch's can be - just because they are all that is left as a check on the power of the secret state. Russia under Yeltsin was industrialised (but de-industrialising) anarchy, and it has since become a police democracy. Although the constitution looks - if you screw your eyes up - vaguely like a democracy with a powerful centralised state and strong executive presidency (France, for instance), practice is very different and the political quality of Russia has probably gone backwards. The key now is the complex of the presidential administration, the FSB, the "power ministries", and the friendly oligarchs like Mikhail Fridman. Those ministries, though, are becoming more and more identical with the president's power structure.

Curiously, an executive presidency with the powers of a head of state, an interior, foreign and defence minister was last suggested in democracy by one Jörg Haider in his book "The Third Republic". (The republic he meant was of course Austria, not France) Not the best example.

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