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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Elite Split on Blame for Gusinsky Arrest




In answering the quintessential Russian question "Who is to be blamed?" f this time around, for Vladimir Gusinsky's arrest f the political elite has split. While almost everyone blames the "family," the "family" blames the law enforcement organs.


This positioning reflects a struggle for influence over President Vladimir Putin, who so far has enjoyed the full support of at least three power groups: the Kremlin insiders known as the "family"; people from the former KGB; and pro-market politicians from the Union of Right Forces, SPS.


Just two weeks before his arrest, Gusinsky himself described Putin as a boy holding the leashes of three huge black dogs that are dragging him in slightly different directions, the sum of which is back to authoritarianism.


Political analysts said Monday that Gusinsky's arrest last week is unlikely to have much of an effect on the wider public: Putin's approval ratings may drop a few points but will remain high.


But among the elites, "a clear positioning is under way in regard to the forces [in the Kremlin] that want to make Russia's political environment monotonous and homogeneous," said Andrei Ryabov of the Moscow Carnegie Center.


Click here to read our special report on the Struggle for Media-MOST.A few politicians closely tied with the "family" f such as State Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyov and Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov f unconditionally supported Gusinsky's arrest.


Many f from SPS leader Boris Nemtsov to Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov f condemned the arrest, but they spared Putin personally and cast the blame on Chief of Staff Alexander Voloshin, who is seen as a central member of the "family." Nemtsov demanded that Putin fire Voloshin.


At the same time, the "family" blamed the law enforcement agencies. In an interview with German magazine Der Spiegel, Boris Berezovsky said Gusinsky's arrest was "simply an ill-planned action of the special forces."


Putin is "not a strategist" and "has bad advisers today," said Berezovsky, implying that his own advice has not been heeded.


ORT anchor Sergei Dorenko, who is known as "Berezovsky's bulldog," has relentlessly targeted Gusinsky's Media-MOST holding company, which includes NTV television. But he was greeted with applause last week when he appeared in an NTV studio during the Glas Naroda program on the night of Gusinsky's arrest.


Dorenko went on to attack the "robots" of the former KGB, who he said had started to rise up upon hearing "magic music" from the Kremlin.


During his own program Saturday on ORT, Dorenko continued to blame "mutant law enforcers" for Gusinsky's arrest. Dorenko said he had been told by one "secret service employee" that "if these oligarch-Jews don't leave for warm islands themselves, we will send them to Novaya Zemlya."


But the ORT anchor urged Gusinsky not to use his place in the spot light to "resolve private issues" with Roman Abramovich and Alexander Mamut, businessmen seen as Kremlin insiders.


Ryabov called Dorenko's program "a brilliant propaganda operation" that took the "family" out of the heat of the fire.


Sergei Markov, director of the Institute of Political Studies, said Gusinsky's arrest showcased new alliances.


If before the recent developments, Putin had been able to promote his own political agenda with little opposition, he will now have a tougher time.


The media tycoon's arrest has led to a consolidation f perhaps only temporarily f of political forces based on Russia's nascent civil society, Markov said. In the Duma they are represented by Yabloko, SPS and, to some degree, Fatherland-All Russia.


Members of the pro-Kremlin Unity Party and the Communists have said little or nothing about the arrest.


The business elite, represented by 17 leading CEOs who sent a letter to Putin, also demanded Gusinsky's release.


Markov said it was likely to be the first of many conflicts that he likened to the typical quarrels between newlyweds. "Bureaucracy, business and political groups have entered a series of conflicts, which will allow them to draw new rules of the game," he said.