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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Khapsirokov: What Could This Mean?

Please tell us, President Putin, how we are to understand Thursday's appointment of Nazir Khapsirokov as an aide to your chief of staff, Alexander Voloshin.

Perhaps this appointment merely reflects an exaggerated devotion to the presumption of innocence since, after all, Khapsirokov has been repeatedly accused of corruption and abuse of power, but has never been convicted or even tried for anything. Only cynical observers will draw the conclusion that he has been shielded by his intimate connections in the Prosecutor General's Office.

Or perhaps it is another case of your "not being in the loop." Maybe some unscrupulous underlings made this appointment without your knowledge, perhaps to discredit your administration's claims to be cracking down on official corruption. Or perhaps Voloshin, himself no stranger to murky and unresolved corruption accusations, doesn't regard such a background as a disqualification for serving in your administration.

Perhaps the analysts are right who claim that Russia simply does not have enough qualified and effective people to serve as its leaders. Perhaps you have no choice but to allow disgraced and dismissed officials, dogged by unresolved accusations of corruption, to sit in the Kremlin and make state policy. Perhaps when you look through the ranks of the pro-Kremlin Unity movement you see only figures less qualified and less effective than Khapsirokov.

Or perhaps — say it isn't so — the move reflects a cynical and all too typical contempt for public opinion. Perhaps it is another example of how politicians here not only steal but do so brazenly, flaunting the fact that they are far above and beyond the reach of the law. Perhaps, President Putin, being several years away from facing voters again, you simply don't care how your administration looks to the public.

We are frustrated, Mr. President. We are exhausted by trying to reconcile the dubious deeds of your administration with the hopeful rhetoric of infrequent public speeches. We cannot figure how the appointment of Khapsirokov jibes with your efforts to convince the West that Russia is becoming a more attractive place to invest and that the era of politically motivated prosecutions (and non-prosecutions) is over. You'll have to excuse us for worrying that Russia remains the same oligarchy, the same kleptocracy that it has been for nearly a decade.

Your silence, Mr. President, does nothing to reassure us. So we ask again: What does the Khapsirokov appointment mean?