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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

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Russia Day on June 12 was created to commemorate Boris Yeltsin's election in 1991 as the first president of the Russian republic of the Soviet Union. It was also intended to commemorate the birth of a "sovereign" Russia. On the eve of the 18th anniversary of Russia Day, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin gave the Yeltsin family a birthday gift of sorts.

On June 4, during a visit to the town of Pikalyovo in the Leningrad region, Putin sharply criticized tycoon Oleg Deripaska. Deripaska is related to the Yeltsins via his father-in-law, Valentin Yumashev, Yeltsin's former adviser who is married to Tatyana Dyachenko, Yeltsin's daughter.

Deripaska is the second oligarch whom Putin has chastised and humiliated in front of the entire nation. This was preceded by a more severe example, when former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky was sent to jail. There have recently been some interesting developments in the government's case against him. In an e-mail letter discussing the court proceedings, Khodokorvsky lawyer Yelena Lukyanova writes: "The prosecutor's office has become so tangled up in the privatization process that it has started directing complaints not at the individual or entity on trial, but at the Federal Property Management Agency and the Federal Property Fund. According to documents read by Prosecutor Valery Lakhtin, those state agencies improperly auctioned off state property in 1995 and 1997. As a result, the state never received about $500 million."

Yury Boldyrev, former vice president of the Kremlin's audit department and one of the founding members of the Yabloko party, said essentially the same thing when the government had just begun prosecuting Khodorkovsky. Boldyrov claimed that the public would only become interested in the case if the "young reformers" and architects of privatization were to face criminal charges alongside Khodorkovsky. Otherwise, he said, the whole thing would be seen as an internal feud between Yeltsin so-called Family members.

This reminds me comments made a couple of years ago by Gleb Pavlovsky, one of Putin's ideologues and spin doctors, who argued for a judicial review of the entire Yeltsin era.

In any case, it is too early to conclude that Putin's remarks in Pikalyovo indicate a complete break with Yeltsin's legacy. At the very least, Putin has copied Yeltsin's style. Putin's theatrical stunt of forcing Deripaska to sign a business contract against his will while the cameras were rolling was identical to Yeltsin's dressing down of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev upon his return from captivity after the failed coup attempt in 1991. Yeltsin forced Gorbachev to sign a document banning the Communist Party while Gorbachev stood at the podium of the Congress of People's Deputies, the first Soviet parliament in which deputies from competing parties were elected. Yeltsin handed Gorbachev a pen to sign the document, something Putin repeated with Deripaska.

Despite the outward similarities, the underlying intentions behind the two acts couldn't have been more different. By belittling the president of the Soviet Union, Yeltsin sent a signal to the leaders of the Soviet republics, effectively saying: "The Soviet leadership no longer has the power to punish you. Feel free to plunder as much as you want." By contrast, when Putin chewed out Deripaska and basically told him, "Get on your knees before the Russian people!" Putin unambiguously let everybody know that he is in charge and in control of the situation.

That might not be much, but it is progress.

Alexei Pankin is the editor of IFRA-GIPP Magazine for publishing business professionals.