A selection of the latest rumors in Russian politics

The FSB predicts that Boris Berezovsky, Leonid Nevzlin, and Vladimir Gusinsky won’t have any real influence on the 2007-08 election campaigns in Russia. Reportedly, Berezovsky is consulting with the intelligence agencies of NATO countries on this topic.

Gryzlov jealous of Medvedev

The battle between the two Kremlin parties, Just Russia and United Russia, is intensifying. United Russia has prepared some amendments to legislation, intended to restrict Just Russia leader Sergei Mironov’s influence as speaker of the Federation Council. If these amendments are passed, the speaker will lose the power to initiate the process of having another senator recalled; he would need at least a third of the Federation Council to vote in favor of such a move. A third of the Federation Council would also be enough to get a senator recalled, without the speaker’s involvement. As everyone knows, Mironov has used these powers extensively in order to purge the Federation Council and keep out anyone he considers unacceptable. Mironov has responded to United Russia’s move by promising to initiate legislation that hits the Duma in its most sensitive area: internal procedures and regulations.

The checkists are keeping calm

The Federal Security Service (FSB) predicts that Boris Berezovsky, Leonid Nevzlin, and Vladimir Gusinsky won’t have any real influence on the 2007-08 election campaigns in Russia. Reportedly, Berezovsky is consulting with the intelligence agencies of NATO countries on this topic. This would seem to explain why he’s been telling the media that he has a network of agents in the very highest circles, even in the Kremlin itself. What’s more, the Western intelligence agencies would like to use his contacts to provide funding for rights protection organizations in Russia, since the Kremlin has practically blocked all funding from abroad for various non-governmental organizations of a political nature. The recent scandal over the confiscation of foreign currency from a non-governmental organization engaged in training journalists is a characteristic example of direct Western funding, with money brought in across the border quite openly.

Berezovsky undermining Putin

Reportedly, Berezovsky has instructed “his people” to organize an active search for compromising materials on Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg. In the fugitive oligarch’s view, there must have been some corrupt dealings in the years when Putin managed foreign trade activity and privatization for the St. Petersburg city government. Berezovsky has high hopes for the case of Roman Tsepov, head of the Baltic Escort security agency, who died mysteriously in 1994. He is looking among Tsepov’s former colleagues for compromising evidence against Anatoly Sobchak and Putin himself. Berezovsky really wants to find Riga OMON officer Alexander Ryzhov, who worked with Tsepov and was charged along with Tsepov in a criminal case concerning an armed attack on the Parallel 60 company. According to rumors, Tsepov provided bodyguards not only for Putin (who wasn’t entitled to state bodyguards back then), but also a crime boss known as Kolya Permsky and members of the Tambov gang; he handed over to police a team of hitmen working for crime boss Tyurik; and he was involved in the murder of Vyacheslav Shevchenko in Cyprus. In Berezovsky’s view, particular attention should be paid to the privatization of Baltic shipping. Alexei Miller, now CEO of Gazprom, was involved with shipping as well in those years. Reportedly, Berezovsky is prepared to pay generously for all this work. Berezovsky thinks that the Tsepov case should be revived and publicized, placing it alongside the murder of Alexander Litvinenko. In short, according to our sources, Berezovsky expects his people to collect specific details, hints, and suggestions that may be publicized over the coming months.

The shadow of the NKVD over the Prosecutor General’s Office

The Federation Council has voted to endorse the appointment of the head of the Investigation Committee. Legislation establishing the Investigation Committee was passed in May. It will be headed by Alexander Bastrykin, deputy prosecutor general and a former university classmate of President Putin. It’s worth noting that Putin has transferred Bastrykin to new jobs three times in the past year: in June 2006, Bastrykin was appointed to head the Interior Ministry’s main directorate for the Central federal district; in October 2006, he became a deputy prosecutor general; and now he will head the newly-established Investigation Committee, reporting directly to Putin, not to Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika.

Bastrykin won’t have his full powers as Investigation Committee chief until September 6, when the relevant amendments to the law on the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Criminal-Procedural Code come into force. But the Federation Council has confirmed him as acting director, so he can start work on establishing the Investigation Committee. It has broad powers and will act independently of the prosecutor general. According to our sources, the Investigation Committee may be empowered to prosecute members of parliament and parliamentary or presidential candidates. This leaves the Prosecutor General’s Office with only the functions of monitoring observance of the law. In effect, this is a matter of oversight being established over prosecutors themselves, as in the grim era of the NKVD.

Medvedev stalled

Bankers are starting to show some displeasure with Senior Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev. Results to date for the Affordable Housing national project cannot be described as successful: there’s a shortage of land for residential construction, and prices are rising. Some time ago, Medvedev requested the Prosecutor General’s Office to investigate the reasons for this, and the task was handed over to the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS). The FAS looked for evidence of conspiracy in the property market in Moscow, the Moscow region, and St. Petersburg. However, the FAS didn’t find any sign of a conspiracy. Later, Medvedev gave Russian bankers some specific instructions concerning mortgage costs: interest rates should be reduced to 10% per annum (in foreign currency) by 2008, and 8% by 2010. However, under current market conditions, only banks that work with state mortgage programs can comply with Medvedev’s wishes without losing money on mortgages.