In Russia, Anatoli Chubais, adviser to Putin and liberal figure, defected

Then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (back) talks to Rusnano state-owned company General Director Anatoly Chubais as they meet at a residence in Novo-Ogaryovo outside Moscow on 18 August 2011.

Anatoly Chubais is in Istanbul. He was seen, and photographed, cap on his head, in front of an ATM in the Turkish megalopolis. Does the Russian official, like tens of thousands of his fellow citizens who fled Russia, have liquidity problems, linked to the blocking of Russian Visa and Mastercard cards abroad?

The departure of this emblematic personality of the 1990s and 2000s was announced on Wednesday March 23 by the Bloomberg agency, then officially confirmed. Before leaving the country with his wife, perhaps temporarily, Mr. Chubais, 66, had indicated that he was resigning from his post as special representative of the president to international organizations, in charge in particular of the climate.

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The stature of Anatoly Chubais goes beyond this title he has held since 2020. This former deputy prime minister is one of the most important politicians of the 1990s, and his name remains associated with massive privatizations and “therapy of shock” experienced by Russia during this period. It was also he who brought Vladimir Putin to Moscow in the mid-1990s, before overseeing the transition between Boris Yeltsin and the latter at the end of the decade.

Anatoli Chubais then showed complete loyalty to the new president, putting his image as a dyed-in-the-wool liberal at his service. In particular, he has managed large public groups in the energy and technology sector. Like all members of the liberal elite, his influence in the Kremlin had gradually faded.

The dangers of “imperial nostalgia”

In this world of Byzantine functioning that is the summit of the Russian state, his resignation cannot however be interpreted other than as a defection. Vladimir Putin has sufficiently endeavored to display the unity of the elite, by uniting its various components around him. The special representative had also hinted at his opposition to “Special Operation” carried out in Ukraine by publishing on social networks, a week ago, a warning about the dangers of “imperial nostalgia”.

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His gesture was little publicized, and treated with a certain disdain. Several officials spoke of a ” good news “while an adviser to Vladimir Putin quipped: “I don’t think it influences Russia’s climate agenda too much. » A few days ago, Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, equated those who leave with “traitors”in line with Mr Putin’s speech on the “fifth column”. These positions are all the easier since Anatoli Chubais, associated with the painful reforms of the 1990s, is an unpopular character in Russia.

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