Friends in High Places

One of the most consistent features of the Putin regime has been the appointment of closer and closer personal friends to sensitive positions in the administration. Whenever difficulties are expected, anyone who hasn’t been enthusiastically loyal enough gets the boot, replaced by someone who can be counted on to obey the executive unquestioningly. This pattern occurs not only in the government, but in the unofficial government composed of Putin’s pet oligarchs. If one of them gets out of line they soon find back tax bills and other investigations coming out of nowhere.

Now we are seeing one of Putin’s old school chums in action, Alexander Bastrykin, who assumed his new role today. Ironically, he is in charge of the Prosecutor General’s Investigative Committee. An excellent place to begin the hunt for corrupt officials, but of course his targets will be those suspected of insufficient loyalty — e.g. those who fail to share the proceeds from their corrupt activities. Thousands of civil servants are being placed under the Investigative Committee’s control, largely stripping the Prosecutor’s Office of oversight ability.

Bastrykin was in the news several months ago for criticizing Scotland Yard’s focus on Andrei Lugovoi in the murder of Alexander Litvinenko.