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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Kremlin Only Sacred For Some

When the Kremlin's name is taken in vain ..." - Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Yakushkin, reminding political opponents on Friday that the Kremlin is, as Itar-Tass put it, a sacred understanding.

Yakushkin's remarks as reported by Itar-Tass suggest that many critics of Boris Yeltsin's regime ought to clarify their position.

For our part, we have nothing against the building. It's a gorgeous architectural ensemble. One of the most wonderful things about living in Moscow is being able to see, every day, something as rich in history and beauty as the Kremlin.

True, under Yeltsin some eyebrow-raising price tags have come attached to renovations - $488 million to fix up the president's Kremlin residence, $335 million to fix up the Kremlin Grand Palace, and so on.

And for that matter, if the Audit Chamber is correct, it is likely that we ordinary people value the Kremlin more highly than do its current occupants. As The Moscow Times reported this summer, an Audit Chamber investigation not only raised questions about the price tags of a remont fit for a tsar, but also alleged that hundreds of rare and historical Kremlin artifacts have over recent years been secretly sold off at bargain basement prices.

From tsarist-era chandeliers to Josef Stalin's office furniture, the auditors say such items were doled out to anonymous individuals through direct, quiet sales - apparently for very minor sums.

Perhaps it is audits like these the Kremlin press secretary has in mind when he bemoans those who damage Russia by taking the Kremlin's name in vain, by ignoring the Kremlin's sacred nature, and so on.

Or perhaps we are taking the Kremlin's name in vain when we wonder about, say, the government's sale on Friday of 9 percent of Russia's largest oil company - to an obscure Cyprus-run vehicle.

On the one hand, Russia does need money, and clinging to a minority stake in LUKoil helps no one. On the other hand, a fair and open auction would have raised more money. The mystery men from Cyprus paid just $5,000 more than the minimum bid of $200 million; if the auction had been open to all, the budget surely would have earned the Russian budget millions more.

But is it really sacrilege to complain about the Yeltsin regime's handling of matters like Chechnya, or another oil privatization, or freedom of the press? It seems to us that, on the contrary, it is idolatry on Yakushkin's part to assert such a holy privilege for his political master, simply because he has a legal claim to occupy the Kremlin for the next eight months.