The forced resignation of Duma deputies accused of owning property they had not declared shows Vladimir Putin trying, in the same way as his illustrious forebear Josef Stalin, to purge the ranks. But you can’t set a thief to catch a thief, says Andrei Piontkovsky
Editors’ note: lawyer Aleksey Navalny campaigns against corruption and abuse of power. His most high-ranking scalp to date, Vladimir Pekhtin, has just resigned from the State Duma, accused of owning property in Miami which he had not declared. Other deputies, including Oleg Mikheev, have also resigned
Late last week, the wave of voluntary resignations from the Duma could already be called an Exodus. It will take only another half dozen Pekhtin supporters to walk, for the prospect of a snap parliamentary election to start being seriously discussed.
Moses and the Exodus
But if this is indeed an Exodus, then the question immediately springs to mind: who is the Moses who will lead the shamefaced billionaires and multimillionaires out of the Duma building in central Moscow?
Aleksey Navalny, perhaps? But Navalny was instrumental only in the fall of the unfortunate Pekhtin; and Pekhtin went up to the place known as Golgotha, not for personal gain but merely because he had been ordered to do so by the Presidential Administration.
The rest of the resignations were dictated by the proper investigative authorities – an armed detachment of the Presidential Administration. For some of the particularly impressionable billionaires a glimpse of the instruments of torture during the ‘public shaming’ of deputy Oleg Mikheev was enough.
No, it is an epic character of a completely different order that emerges from behind the broad back of the humble lawyer, Navalny.
The hour has come
Defenestration is routine for all authoritarian regimes ruled over by one person. At some point the wounded serpent casts off the well-fed nomenklatura like an old skin and, blessing Himself with holy water, appears once more to the nation under His protection in the guise of a young folk hero who will give voice to its most cherished beliefs. There are grounds for thinking that our own serpent genius, so skilled in the tactical retention of power, is attempting a special operation of this very kind.
He now has no alternative but to reinvent himself. The relentless preaching of the likes of Navalny, Nemtsov, Belkovsky and the author of this article have firmly planted in the consciousness of the masses the idea of the total, unbridled thievery being perpetrated by the whole political class of post-Communist nouveaux riches (beginning, of course, at the very top).
At protest marches, tens of thousands of people chant ‘Putin is a thief’, watched closely, and one might even say approvingly, by thousands of rapid reaction police officers. For our genius, to allow this uneasy stand-off to continue would surely amount to political suicide. The days when established Jungian ideas could be beaten out of Russian heads with truncheons have passed; it would take the more sophisticated techniques of blackbelt judo to exploit the masses’ rage against corruption to settle personal political scores.
To win this round, the supreme Anointed One, clothed in snow-white raiment, must be diplomatically detached from the high society rabble, mired in depravity in Miami and Courchevel.
He has known as well as any Navalny about the crooks and thieves for a long time, but He kept quiet because He was wary of rattling their cages. Like the Soviet literary hero the spy Stirlitz deceiving the Gestapo, He has kept up the pretence, so reluctantly pulling on His trousers from Brioni and having to pay Abramovich 13.7 billion dollars for Sibneft, a company knocked down for a song.
But the hour of the Prophet has come and He has thrown off his hateful shackles. Now even [ultra-nationalist writer] Alexander Prokhanov himself has hailed Him as a ’new Stalin, emerging from the womb of the Jewish mafia.’
That other ultra-nationalist, Alexander Dugin, himself solemnly inducts Him into the occult Order of National Kleptocrats, a sort of Russian Ahnenerbe: ‘Patriotic corruption first appeared as an independent phenomenon under Putin. It would make more sense to allow the many Russian patriots to dismember the empires stolen by the Atlanticists, dividing them up into small packages of crony shares to avoid problems of where to hide the loot.’
Last but not least, theatrical politican Sergey Kurginyan addresses the nation with a heroic ode:
Friends, Parents, lend me your ears!
No need to praise Putin – I am here!
Putin is a thief, but a bolshie one:
He threw down a bold challenge to the Yanks,
Halving the tribute to be paid
And thereby enlarging his own share.
In response, Secretary Clinton
Mustered the obedient thieves in Marsh Square [scene of recent demonstrations],
Having first infected them with Orange Revolutionary Fever.
The people and Putin must purge these evil spirits.
He will bristle with bayonets, from the icy north to the burning south,
And…steal less. But the army needs soldiers, rockets and GPS.
Under Putin science, arts and crafts will blossom. There will be a city!
To spite the haughty Yanks a garden city will arise here in 12 years’ time.
Honour among thieves?
So far, so good, and uplifting too. Small-time Miami swindlers like Pekhtin can be handed over in large numbers; but when will it be the turn of the real bosses? How will Mikhail Ivanich [code name for Putin among shareholders of the ‘Ozero’ dacha cooperative, the influential group united by country houses built alongside the Komsomolskoye lake near St. Petersburg - ed] square things with His shareholders – Gangrene, Soldier and Walleye? Will He promise them their ill-gotten gains are sacrosanct? But who will guarantee that and what will happen to the other members of the cooperative? Who gets to stay in the gang and who gets thrown to the wolves?
Are the praises of the wise men from the conservative-patriotic Izborsk Club not perhaps somewhat backhanded when they talk of the ‘corrupt patriot emerging from the womb of the underworld’? Will they be able to appeal to reason, at a time of seething anger and outrage, inflamed by the public beatings and show trials of Kremlin cardinals? Moses is calculating that, when he has torn up his pact with the ‘elite’, he will stand shoulder to shoulder with Navalny to consign the flock of crooks and thieves to the dunghill of history.
It obviously hasn’t occurred to him, however, that He might be looking at His own Apocalypse too.