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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

How to Make Real Enemies From Thin Air

Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky is sitting in Matrosskaya Tishina; prosecutors froze 44 percent of Yukos' shares; Alexander Voloshin, head of the presidential administration, tendered his resignation.

Russia is in the midst of a crisis, and all thanks to Khodorkovsky. Do you really think anyone wanted him arrested? You may recall a similar situation three years ago when the Prosecutor General's Office decided to lean on Interros chief Vladimir Potanin. They reckoned he owed the government $140 million in compensation for what they called a rigged privatization auction in which Potanin acquired Norilsk Nickel. Did anyone go to jail? Did the oligarch pay for his sins? A deafening silence ensued. Maybe they cut a deal.

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Law enforcement clearly wanted to cut a deal with Khodorkovsky, too. They did everything they could to get this point across to him. They made very clear that the balance of power in Russia had changed. If you "respect" the new regime, then make a visible and, shall we say, material show of your respect. Khodorkovsky was a little slow on the uptake. He didn't want to deal. To translate from gangster-speak into plain Russian, he didn't want to get milked. This left the dutiful prosecutors no choice but to inform the president that Khodorkovsky did not respect his authority, or in other words, that he wouldn't toe the line. And it goes without saying that anyone who doesn't toe the line is a dissident with political ambitions.

A year ago, a friend of mine -- let's call him Ivanov -- met with his deputy head of security, who told him that another businessman -- let's call him Sidorov -- had sold them out to the Tax Police.

Ivanov and Sidorov had crossed swords in the past. "I don't believe it," my friend said. "Sidorov is in the process of selling his company to a German concern. Why would he open up this can of worms? I won't believe it unless you bring me some proof."

The deputy head of security produced taped recordings of a junior exec in Sidorov's company talking with the tax cops, but from their conversation it was unclear just who was recruiting whom. In short, this was no major operation, just a couple of cops trying to shake down various executives.

It's not all that hard to set the president and a particular oligarch at odds with each other. You just keep whispering in the president's ear that the oligarch has designs on his job, and you remind the oligarch at every opportunity that the president is going to eat him for breakfast. My point is not that the president was deceived by bad people. It is rather that the president is making decisions with his heart instead of his head, and these decisions will prove disastrous for the president himself, but advantageous for those close to him.

Suppose that the president was told the truth about Khodorkovsky. The oil magnate really was hatching a sinister plot to oust the president and buy off every last deputy in the State Duma.

What's the big deal? If Khodorkovsky had his eye on the presidency, the Kremlin should have let him run. The oligarchs aren't going to win any popularity contests. How many votes do you think he would have received? Diddly squat. This would have been a resounding victory for the president, but a bitter defeat for his inner circle, because the president would have been surrounded by the people of Russia. As it is, he is surrounded by loyal people who shield him from various enemies.

When no enemy exists, they make one up.

There's just one problem. At present, the people despise the oligarchs and they love the regime. But if all the oligarchs are put behind bars and their business empires pass into the hands of people closely tied to the current regime, whom do you think the people will despise next?

This crisis came out of the blue. Two weeks ago we lived in a country where the president would win re-election in the first round, where United Russia would win a majority in parliament, and where the oligarchs were standing in line to kiss the president's hand. Now we live in a country where the oligarchs have nothing to lose but their Butyrka cells.

Yulia Latynina is a presenter of "24" on RenTV.