President Vladimir Putin has demonstratively extended his pay cut this year — but that’s after he doubled his pay last year, and with persistent reports that he’s in fact worth billions.
Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.
The previous issue is here.
–The Non-Hybrid War
–Kashin Explains His âLetter to Leadersâ on âFontanka Officeâ
–TV Rain Interviews Volunteer Fighter Back from Donbass
–âI Was on Active Dutyâ: Interview with Captured GRU Officer Aleksandrov
President Vladimir Putin is famous for having said “Frankly, I don’t even know my own salary — they just give it to me, and I put it away in my account.”
These measures may have worked to convince those who Putin his 88% approval rate dependent on state television for news, but will be viewed as irrelevant and cheap populism by those who have read of allegations of Putin’s billions. The Russian president is widely believed to have stashed away personal wealth with the help of a network of corrupt cronies, but researching and proving these claims has been difficult not only due to state secrecy but the frequent high penalty — from long jail terms to assassination — of some of Putin’s high-profile critics.
Scholar Karen Dawisha, author of Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia? published last year by Simon & Schuster, has undertaken an authoritative effort to tabulate Putin’s wealth — and had to release her book in the US after her original publisher, Cambridge University Press, decided not to print the book on the advice of libel lawyers in the UK, where laws are more strict than in the US.
The book was reviewed favorably by the New York Times:
Now in his third (nonconsecutive) presidential term, Vladimir Putin presents himself as the strong and virtuous leader who rescued Russia from the chaos, corruption, penury and weakness of the 1990s.
State-controlled news media and Kremlin spin doctors disseminate this message diligently — and to good effect, judging from Putin’s 80 percent approval rating.
But with “Putin’s Kleptocracy,” Karen Dawisha, a respected scholar of Soviet and Russian politics at Miami University in Ohio, seeks to shred this carefully constructed narrative.
Her verdict is not merely that Putin’s boast of having built a potent, efficient state that fights for the little guy and against the venality of the powerful is bunk. Her bedrock claims are that the essential character of Putin’s system is colossal corruption and that he is a prime beneficiary. The thievery, she says, has made him fabulously rich, along with a coterie of trusted friends dating back to his days as a K.G.B. officer in Communist East Germany, then as first deputy mayor in 1990s St. Petersburg, then as head of the Federal Security Service.
The State Duma ruled to raise the minimum wage for 2016 to 6,204 rubles a month ($92.35), RBC.ru reported. Last year, the minimum wage was 5,965 rubles ($88.89) which means the indexation of the minimum wage for inflation is 4% — even as the wage is now worth less, and the government forecasts inflation as 6.4% in the coming year.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick