One of the stock lines of a movie mafia don is the veiled threat, all wrapped up in an apparent expression of good will. “Nice little business (or family) you have here. Would be a tragedy if something happened to it.”
Don Vladimir played this role to the hilt in his End of the World press conference. (When it got to the 3 hour mark, I imagine that most of the people in attendance were thinking the end of the world sounded like a good idea.)
Putin said the TNK billionaires won’t be forced to invest the sale proceeds in Russia. “If we recognize the lawful, legitimate owners, if they earned their money legally, then it’s their business where they invest,” Putin said.
Government officials and executives from several Russian companies are in talks with “some participants in this deal” about investing the TNK-BP (TNBP) proceeds in the Russian economy, Putin said. “I hope they’ll decide in favor of investing in the Russian economy.”
“If we [who is this we?] recognize”? “If they earned their money legally”? Had there been any previous suggestion of illegality? These guys have been in business since the 90s, with virtually no interference from the government. Only now is the legality of their previous activities is questionable?
No. The message is clear. Invest in Russia. Or else. The else being “we” (i.e., Putin and Sechin et al) will find some reason in Fridman et al‘s past conduct to take away their money. The most likely something being traceable to “loans for shares” in the Yeltsin years.
But he promises these measures will be “careful, civilized.” I’ll bet. Like the measures used against Khodorkovsky.
President Vladimir Putin today wished Khodorkovsky “good health” after his release and said he hadn’t influenced the courts on the former billionaire Yukos Oil Co. owner’s case. Khodorkovsky and his business partner, Platon Lebedev, had their terms cut to 11 years from 13 years by the Moscow City Court.
I mean, that is right out of the mouth of a movie mafiosi. Translation: if you want to keep your health, keep your mouth shut and your money out of politics.
It’s pathetic, really (though in a different way than Medvedev is pathetic). Putin is becoming a self-caricature. This is another symptom of stasis, Putin’s purgatory.