The Corner

Death of a Russian Banker

I e-mailed Nick Gvosdev, editor of The National Interest, about the assasination in Russia today. Here’s his response:

The importance of Andrei Kozlov’s murder? The killing of the crusading deputy chairman of Russia’s central bank is a clear signal that the criminal element which still has a presence in the Russian economy is not going to give up without a fight. Like Paul Klebnikov’s murder–also because he, as a journalist, was hot on the trail of a number of shady dealings–this was, in my opinion, a “demonstration” killing–interfere too much in our affairs, and pay the price–and by the way, we can still subvert Putin’s efforts to impose law and order from time to time.

This murder has real implications for the Putin government’s efforts to break up regional power centers formed by the symbiotic ties between local officials and business interests and where relatively unregulated banks have played key roles in helping to funnel out assets. A major effort was undertaken to bring Russia’s major diamond company, ALROSA, under firm federal control and to lessen the influence of the regional government of Sakha on the company–a project spearheaded by Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, who spoke very highly of Kozlov’s efforts to close down banks in violation of state regulations.

What remains to be seen is whether, like the Beslan attacks, the murder of Kozlov is used by Putin as the basis for further centralization of power–but the murder is also a reminder that all the best written plans for law and order are useless if you can subvert the personnel who are expected to carry them out.

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