No Palace Coup in Store for Russia
Published: August 5, 2014 (Issue # 1822)
When the U.S. government announced its first round of sanctions against President Vladimir Putin's friends over the Ukraine conflict in May, it made no bones about their aim: Increase the cost for them of Putin continuing his course and they will influence him to back off or, ultimately, throw him under the bus.
The sanctions quickly began to hit some where it hurts. Billionaire Gennady Timchenko, whom the U.S. Treasury Department has described as someone whose "activities in the energy sector have been closely linked to Putin," found that his wife was unable to pay for her back surgery in Switzerland in May when all his credit cards were suddenly blocked.
Timchenko, 61, has been friends with Putin for more than 20 years, and his labrador Romi is a daughter of Putin's favorite labrador Koni, he said in a rare and outspoken interview with ITAR-Tass published Monday.
In the interview, Timchenko said that business elites would not turn on Putin over sanctions and that he would be willing to give up all of his assets, estimated by Forbes in 2014 to stand at $14.3 billion, to the state "even tomorrow."
"We have encountered certain difficulties because of sanctions, but they are negligible when compared with the country's goals," he said, ruling out any expectation that he, along with other Putin's longtime friends Yury Kovalchuk, Arkady and Boris Rotenberg, who were also sanctioned, will pressure Putin to change course.
"It is naive to think that with such methods anyone will scare us or force us to retreat," he said, apparently admitting that there is a cohesive group surrounding Putin.
Putin's Elite, Tamed and Loyal
The people who have had sanctions slapped on them constitute a particular group of the president's longtime friends whose wealth has increased exponentially since Putin came to power at the end of 1999.
For instance, Kovalchuk, the largest single shareholder of Bank Rossiya, is described by the U.S. Treasury as "a close advisor to President Putin, [who] has been referred to as one of his 'cashiers.'"
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