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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Borodin Airlifted a la Sobchak

"Freeing an indictee even before he's been questioned is very strange indeed. It's a decision that will harm the conduct of the case."
— Bernard Bertossa, the Geneva prosecutor who is leading the charge against Pavel Borodin

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So Borodin is back home — speedily and oddly airlifted home by the Foreign Ministry, which put up $3 million bail for him.

Some have questioned how the government, which continues to tolerate wage arrears, overnight came up with $3 million for such a frivolous project. Three million dollars is a small sum in the grand scheme of things — but a lot to the ears of an unpaid pensioner. Moskovsky Komsomolets reported its newsroom phones were ringing off the hook as angry callers complained.

We aren't thrilled either at the idea of our taxes being used in this way. But the consolation is that it's intriguing to see the Foreign Ministry and the Kremlin so firmly, publicly on the hook to deliver up Pal Palych when the Swiss call. It is now more than ever the Russian government's duty to make sure Borodin shows up for his day in court. Will President Vladimir Putin follow through?

The Swiss accuse Borodin of having received some $30 million in kickbacks from two Swiss companies, Mercata and Mabetex, that had contracts to renovate the Kremlin. Some have speculated that Putin secretly wouldn't mind seeing Borodin jailed. Putin, after all, used to work for Borodin — back when Boris Yeltsin ran the Kremlin and Borodin ran the Kremlin's business — and having an accused money-launderer around these days is awkward. Therefore, such reasoning goes, Putin will deliver up his old mentor.

Perhaps. But Bertossa and others hint that Moscow not only put up bail — it also brought pressure to bear for the right to put up that bail. The government has been lobbying to free Borodin, not to shelve him.

And then consider Yeltsin's memoirs, in which he says that Putin came to his attention precisely because he had helped another old mentor, former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak, skip town.

As Yeltsin revealed in those memoirs, Putin arranged for Sobchak to be snuck out of a hospital bed and whisked off to Paris, out of the clutches of Russian prosecutors. Yeltsin said this aiding and abetting an accused felon "called forth a profound human respect." It also apparently launched Putin's meteoric rise: Yeltsin offers the Sobchak-to-Paris story as the explanation of why he chose Putin to head the security services.

All of which suggests Borodin won't be going back to Geneva any time soon.