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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chekist 'Chelseafication' of the Oligarchy

Last week Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky got hit on the head with three bricks. Now, when three bricks strike one person simultaneously, it's probably a good idea to go up to the roof and have a look around.

Yukos is the most transparent company in Russia. Last year it paid $4.5 billion in taxes. And Khodorkovsky is Russia's richest man, according to EuroBusiness magazine.

In Russia, the drive for transparency can all too easily be interpreted as a drive for independence. Maybe that's why Yukos now finds itself at the center of a battle between the oligarchs and the siloviki -- bigwigs in the armed forces, law enforcement and the intelligence services. This is also a battle between the Kremlin clan led by presidential chief of staff Alexander Voloshin and his deputy Vladislav Surkov and another clan led by Viktor Ivanov and Igor Sechin. Surkov runs the pro-Kremlin United Russia party. Rumor has it that the Ivanov clan has got the green light to create the People's Party on the basis of pro-Kremlin single-mandate deputies in the State Duma.

The first harbinger of the conflict between Yukos and the siloviki came in the form of reports that Yukos was financing the Communists.

The allegation that Khodorkovsky is systematically bankrolling the Communists holds about as much water as allegations that the Jews bankrolled Hitler. When disinformation like this turns up on the Internet, it is intended to mislead the public. But when it lands on the president's desk, it is hard to see it as anything but an attempt to mislead the president.

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Yukos returned fire during a meeting between Putin and the oligarchs when Khodorkovsky effectively accused state-owned Rosneft of acquiring Severnaya Neft in February for an inflated price.

You may recall that Rosneft president Sergei Bogdanchikov is thought to be closely allied with the siloviki in the presidential administration.

Khodorkovsky's decision to return fire seems to have been a tactical error. His attack on the siloviki breathed new life into persistent rumors of his political ambitions. The rumor campaign reached its height when the Council for National Strategy published a report by two unknown political scientists, Iosif Diskin and Stanislav Belkovsky, which all but accused Yukos of planning a coup d'?tat.

Foes of Yukos in the presidential administration didn't accuse Khodorkovsky of corruption or criminal activity. Instead, they made him out to be a vain oligarch bent on scaling the heights of power, up to and including the presidency.

The primary purpose of the law enforcement and the intelligence services is to do battle with enemies of the state. Once upon a time, those enemies were Vladimir Gusinsky and Boris Berezovsky. The business community calmly looked on as their empires were destroyed. Both men were personal enemies of the president, after all.

But when there are no enemies to battle, new ones must be created. Enter Khodorkovsky, who has been systematically turned into an "enemy."

The result has been the destabilization of the existing system of power. Putin has constructed a system of checks and balances that pits the oligarchs against the siloviki such that together they serve the president's interests. Big business must understand that for all its loyalty, and for all the money it pours into United Russia, it stands no chance against the powerhouses unless businessmen band together. If they do not, the siloviki will devour them one by one, leaving the most obedient for last.

Whatever you may think of the oligarchs, they do know how to run a business. The siloviki do not, as they have amply demonstrated in recent years. But they do know how to create enemies and destroy them. And if the charges against the "werewolf" cops are true, they also know how to trump up charges for a fee.

In that case, there is no point in bankrolling election campaigns. You're better off buying the Chelsea soccer club and hopping on the next plane West.

Yulia Latynina is a columnist for Yezhenedelny Zhurnal.