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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kudrin Cancels Trip to Davos

bloombergKudrin, who attended the forum in 2004, planned to meet G8 ministers.
Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin has canceled his trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this week under circumstances that have raised questions about possible discord within the government.

In addition to representing Russia at the high-profile gathering, Kudrin had also planned to hold meetings in Davos with his counterparts from France and Italy in preparation for the meeting of G8 finance ministers in Moscow on Feb. 10-11.

"A trip was planned, but it has been canceled," Kudrin's spokesman Gennady Yezhov said Friday. He declined to comment further.

A source within the government, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Kudrin was not going because Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov refused to give his written permission.

Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref still planned to attend the five-day gathering in the Swiss Alps, which last year was attended by Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov.

"If he is flying there, it means that he received permission," Economic Development and Trade Ministry spokesman Konstantin Bogdanov said.

A spokeswoman for the government said Friday that she had no information on the matter. The phones at the office of Yevgeny Revenko, head of the government's press department, went unanswered Friday.

"It looks like there is an element of personal intrigue there," said Alexei Malashenko, a scholar at the Carnegie Moscow Center. He said Fradkov appeared to be flexing his muscles to show that he is "the one making the decisions."

Alexei Makarkin, a political analyst at the Center for Political Technologies, had a similar view. He said Kudrin was among a small group of ministers -- the others are Fradkov, Gref, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev -- who have direct access to President Vladimir Putin. Fradkov seemed to be "testing" his position as prime minister in an attempt to get his ministers to go through him when they want to take issues to the president, Makarkin said.

Both Malashenko and Makarkin said that Fradkov, as an experienced and cautious bureaucrat, would have been unlikely to have put the brakes on Kudrin's Davos trip without at least tacit approval from the Kremlin.

The Kremlin press office declined to comment Friday.

It was also possible that Kudrin himself decided not to go to Davos. "Perhaps he didn't want to answer difficult questions there," said Vladimir Pribylovsky, head of Panorama, a think tank.

He said Kudrin may have wanted to avoid a grilling on sensitive topics such as the resignation of presidential economic adviser Andrei Illarionov or a lawsuit brought by U.S.-based Yukos shareholders against the Russian government.

Even though Gref, like Kudrin, has represented Russia at Davos in the past, Kudrin's absence will be strongly felt, the analysts said.

"Kudrin's absence will make communicating Russia's position ahead of next month's meeting of the Group of Eight more difficult," Makarkin said. Russia holds the G8 presidency in 2006.