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Vladimir Putin holder på å ødelegge Russland, men få utenfor Russland ser ut til å være opptatt av det. Så sterkt uttalte mannen som har vært Putins økonomiske rådgiver, Andrej Illarionov seg i forrige uke.

Illarionov skulle ha ledet den russiske delegasjonen til G-8 møtene. Men mandag kom kontrabeskjeden: han er fratatt oppgaven.

Stemmer utenfor Kreml har i stigende grad sett med bekymring på utviklingen. Så kommer en insider og gir dem rett: det er minst så ille som dere sier. Da sperrer man øynene opp.

In a long news conference here last week and then in an interview on an independent radio station, Illarionov issued a searing and comprehensive assessment of the state of affairs in Russia, saying the country had sharply shifted direction for the worse, and risked becoming a third-world state.

Illarionov described the government as both arbitrary and wrong-headed, criticizing the Kremlin’s crackdown on the news media, its expropriation of the 2_kommentar asset of Yukos, the oil giant, its centralization of political power and its foreign relations.

His assessments were unsparing. He called the Kremlin’s seizure last month of Yuganskneftegas, the Yukos unit, «the swindle of the year» and characterized it as «extremely incompetent intervention in economic life by state officials.»

His criticism did not rest solely on principles, but also on carefully delineated consequences, including what he called a grave, ultimate risk: The Kremlin’s course, he said, endangered Russia’s survival as a strong nation.

Putin setter markedskreftene ute av spill, og gjeninnfører nepotisme og korrupsjon. Da er ikke stagnasjonen langt unna.

In the government’s attack on a healthy company, and its signals about which companies were Kremlin favorites, Illarionov said, «financial flows are rerouted from the most effective companies to the least effective ones.»

Moreover, Putin’s decision to do away with elections for governors throughout Russia and to appoint governors through the presidency, Illarionov said, ensured that political competition was undermined, to ill effect. «Limited competition in all spheres of life leads to one thing,» he said. «To stagnation.»

Saken om Illarionovs utblåsning, og hans degradering, sto på førstesiden av International Herald Tribune. Norske næringslivsledere kan ikke si de ikke var klar over det som skjer. Men de kommer trolig til å søke samarbeid om leting og utvinning i Barentshavet, uten å «ta høyde for» utviklingen i gal retning. Russland er blitt en illiberal stat, og restene av liberalitet forsvinner i raskt tempo. Ingen må si de ikke visste når Russlands største private selskap blir slaktet foran øynene på en hel verden.

Illarionov unnlot ikke å ta et personlig oppgjør med Putin, som liker å vise at han kjenner saker helt ned til detaljnivå. Han uttalte seg meget nedsettende om dommeren i Houston, Texas, som forsøkte å suspendere salgeta v Yuganskneftegas. Putin sa hun sikkert ikke visste hvor Russland lå en gang. Illarionov roser derimot dommeren:

-We should thank the Texas court and the judge for having done everyting possible to help Russia avoid falling into the abyss they have pushed us to, sa Illarionov.

Det er nok ord som ikke blir glemt så fort i Kreml.

Er det så ille? Den tidligere Financial Times-journalisten David Satter har skrevet boken Darkness at Dawn, som nettopp er utkommet på Yale. Satter tror at det var Putin og FSB/KGB som sto bak bombeeksplosjonene i 1999, som var foranledningen til den andre Tsjetsjenia-krigen. Om Putin personlig ga ordren er en annen sak. Bombene, som krevde flere hundre døde, var sterkt medvirkende til at Putin ble valgt som president.

Anna Politovskaja er også ute med en ny bok Putin’s Russia. Hun fortsetter Satters resonnement: Krigene i Tsjetsjenia har brutalisert og korrumpert det russiske samfunn.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this collection is that it feels like a Soviet-era dissident’s book. Her pieces have that slightly desperate pitch of someone who fears no one is listening – that her own people have given up and that the outside world does not want to hear, or worse, does not care.

This impression is heightened when Politkovskaya tells us that one of her subjects allowed her story about business success, corruption and politics to be told only in the west. «Go ahead let them know what our money smells of.» Both author and subject know that it is dangerous to speak the truth in Russia.

Lenge var man i Vesten opptatt av at økonomien bedret seg i takt med høyere oljepris. Ukraina var nok en eyeopener for mange som følger med. Putins stil vekker til live den stalinistiske arven, og russerne befinner seg i et stor moralsk vakuum:

His (Satter’s) final chapter is called «Does Russia Have a Future?» in which he suggests that, for all the surface economic improvement caused by the oil price, Russia faces questions about its long-term survival. Both these books underline the moral vacuum that the destruction of the Soviet Union has left. There are no values to believe in except theft. Satter connects this to perhaps the most serious problem, depopulation. Russia has one of the lowest birth rates in the world and the death rate of a country at war. The capitalist shock therapy of the early 90s caused a huge increase in the death rate. Some of it was caused by poverty, some by alcoholism. But Satter quotes the head of Russia’s State Centre for Prophylactic Medicine as saying that the critical reason was «the spiritual condition of the Russian people» and the failure of the new society to provide a new purpose after the fall of communism.

This sounds outlandish. But having entered the nightmare world of these two books you are prepared to believe it. There are no values, no laws, no structures for people to turn to, and, critically, nothing and nobody left to believe in.

Nothing left but theft

Anna Politkovskaya and David Satter’s horrifying accounts of Putin’s Russia reveal a state rife with corruption and fear, says Angus Macqueen