Putin hints at fresh crackdown on business

November 08, 2003


MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin, hinted on Thursday that the Kremlin had only just begun a crackdown against “corruption” in big business and politics, as fresh moves were made against the beleaguered oil giant Yukos after the arrest of its chief.

Speaking after meeting EU officials in Rome, Mr Putin suggested more arrests could follow.

“Our goal is not to ruffle the feathers of some specific people but to instill law and order in the country,” he said. “We will be doing it tenaciously and toughly even though opponents of this process will try to protect themselves, in particular by using blackmail. Blackmailing the state will get them nowhere.”

He opened his comments with a promise that the Yukos affair, which began with the head of Russia’s biggest oil company being arrested at gunpoint, would not “lead to a revision of the Russian Federation’s policy in the economic or political sphere”, in particular the revisiting of the privatisations of the 1990s during which state assets were sold off at dubiously low prices.

The speech was the strongest indication yet that the Kremlin does not consider its anti-corruption drive limited to Yukos’s chief executive officer, Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

It came as several Yukos facilities were inspected by government officials — a day after the company was threatened with the annulment of its drilling licences.

Officials from the ministry for natural resources were checking two facilities in the remote Orenburgskoi region.

On Wednesday the minister for natural resources, Vitaly Artyukhov, said his department, which controls drilling rights on state-owned land, may “act preventively” and withdraw licences because of Yukos’s poor observance of unspecified “licence conditions”.

The crackdown on Yukos executives continued on Thursday when the election of a former executive of the company, Vasily Shakhnovsky, to the upper chamber of the Russian parliament was annulled by a court in Evenkia, the region he would have represented. He thus loses any immunity from prosecution the office would have conferred.—Dawn/The Guardian News Service.