United Russia's latest PR stunt involves something that everyone loves to hate: the flashing blue lights (megalki) and government plates that every pimped out car in Moscow seems to have.
You might remember that last winter a chinovnik, flying at 200 km/h on a Siberian back road slammed into the rear end of a car waiting to make a left turn. Miraculously, the chinovnik's armored car didn't protect him, and he died. The peasant, on the other hand, survived: only to be sent to prison for failing to yield to the flashing blue lights on the bureaucrat's car. By Russian law, any car flying the blue strobes is not only to be given the right of way, but also receives amnesty from all traffic violations.
Mass protests ensued and the guy was eventually released. Sensing a chance to gain a little popularity, United Russia jumped on the bandwagon with the grassroots anti-migalka movement that sprang out of the incident. United Russia is now trying to ban the widespread use of the migalki by Russian bureaucrats. They think it'll improve chinovniki's less-than-squeaky-clean image.
Earlier in the week, United Russia stooges made a big show of voluntarily removing their blue blinkers in solidarity with their party's proposed legislation. Only one party member, Deputy Lubov Sliska, broke ranks with her party. She thinks her migalka is too valuable of an accessory to part with. Time will tell if it's an issue she's willing to join the opposition over. Zhirinovsky's LDPR said that they don't plan on giving up theirs any time soon.
The big joke, of course, is that the migalka doesn't matter all that much. Since the bureaucrats will simply be escorted by cop cars...with flashing blue migalki on their hoods.
Kozlov's GKO Past
A week after the deputy chairman of the Central Bank of Russia got whacked, the cops are still standing around scratching their asses. Andrei Kozlov may be the highest-ranking Russian government official to be killed in recent memory, but it's unlikely investigators-even with the help of the FSB-will find anything more than a pair of Dagestani thugs to take the fall for hiz death. There's something ominous in Kozlov being disposed off so brazenly in broad daylight.
In fact it keeps Kompromat Korner up at night, wondering, "Where did we go wrong?" Russian businessmen whacking one another is one thing, but a hit on the country's #2 banker is so brash that it shakes our firmly-held conviction that the FSB has everyone in Russia hog-tied domination-style, just begging for more control.
Most journalists seem to think that Andrey Kozlov is relatively clean and that his murder is connected with the bank industry reforms he's pushed through in the past few years. There's speculation that the hit is specifically connected with the closure of Sodbiznesbank, which touched off a mild bank crisis in 2004 and resulted in the bank's owner getting murdered in 2005. But Sodbiznesbank is just one among hundreds of banks that Kozlov's team closed down for money laundering. The list of potential suspects is too big to bother with. Instead of taking wild guesses about who dunnit, I decided to see if Kozlov's the honest Russian reformer everyone's making him out to be.
Kozlov's been accused of corruption, but nothing solid. Most of the gossip doesn't go back further than 2002, the year he was appointed deputy chairman of the CB. But if you look deeper, it's easy to see that Kozlov had an unsavory past. His bad karma in the financial sector goes much deeper than his banking reforms and Sodbiznesbank, despite what you might have read in Western papers.
A 2002 article on Kozlov in Nezavisimaya Gazeta, "The Godfather of the GKO," gives a glimpse into his life that the press, Western and Russian, have ignored. Kozlov wasn't new to the seat of deputy chairman of the CB when he joined up in 2002. He held this same post back in the '90s. Back then, he was one of the founding fathers of the Russian government's massively-corrupt GKO pyramid scheme that helped trigger the '98 financial crisis. As the second in command of the CB, Kozlov was in a key position to approve bank licenses for government insiders who then used them to launder immense profits from the GKO scam. When the Ponzi scheme fell apart, he quietly resigned and weathered the financial crisis as the director of an Aeroflot tourist agency. He returned to his old post a few years later, when it all blew over.
Kozlov's hit probably has no relation to his Yeltsin years, but you can't say he was Mr. Squeaky Clean. So, while you're not supposed to speak ill of the dead, tell that to the schmuck who lost his life's savings in '98.
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