On Guriev

Apparently he fled to France after senior “systemic liberal” sources in the government told him he was not safe staying in Russia. So he played it safe.

Interpretations about. The return of Stalinism; a new critical phase in the siloviki vs. civiliki clan war; Putin’s vindictiveness against a supporter of Khodorkovsky.

The only problem, at least with the latter explanation? Sergey Guriev himself denies it is so, according to Ben Aris at the FT:

The whole episode is embarrassing for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has been calling for improvements to Russia’s investment climate. According to Guriev, Putin has reassured him that he will come to no harm, but clearly Guriev was not confident that even Putin could protect him. …

While Guriev has been outspoken on economic issues and warned that the current policies will lead to economic stagnation, he is usually a lot more circumspect when it comes to politics. He was again on Friday when asked who was to blame for the attack.
“I have no complaints about either Vladimir Putin or Dmitry Medvedev. I heard them say that nothing is threatening me and that they will not interfere in the work of the investigative committee. I respect such an approach and believe that it is wrong to ask the president of the country to interfere on each occasion,” Guriyev told the Ekho Moskvy radio station.

So unless you believe Ben Aris to be making this up, or consider that Guriev is trying to inveigle himself back into favor (“No hard feelings! It was all just a misunderstanding”), his words have to be taken at face value.

That leaves us with over-enthusiastic investigators who went way beyond the remit of legal acceptability – at least if Guriev’s version of his interactions with them (e.g. the demand to hand over the last 5 years of his emails, etc.) are likewise correct. Investigators whom Bastrykin or Putin are, for whatever reason, either won’t, can’t, or just haven’t yet reined back in.

PS. The Presidential Committee on Human Rights under Medvedev became something more accurately described as the Presidential Committee on Khodorkovsky’s Rights. Why and how an official tax-payer funded grouping devolved to lobbying the interests of a single private individual is, in my view, an entirely valid matter for investigation. AFAIK, however, Guriev himself was only tangentially related to it however, doing little more than giving his “expert opinion” on the issue for their consideration.


  1. Dear Anatoly,

    It’s not easy to come to any definite view about this affair because we don’t know very much about it and what we do know basically originates with Guriev himself. In summary this is what we know as I understand it:

    1. There is an investigation and the Investigative Committee is involved. Guriev has said that it is about the failure to disclose a conflict of interest involving the report produced by the Presidential Human Rights Council concerning the second Khodorkovksy case. I have written previously in comments on this blog about my own bafflement with this report. There have been suggestions that the Guriev affair is linked in some way to the on going case against Navalny but there is nothing about the known facts that warrants that idea.

    2, Both Guriev and the Investigative Committee say that Guriev has been interviewed several times but only as a witness. It’s clear that in Russian police procedure a witness can over time become a suspect. However the Investigative Committee continues to insist that he is only being interviewed as a witness. Guriev says that he has been assured by none other than Putin and Medvedev that he has nothing to fear and he says he has no issue with either of them. Peskov, who is Putin’s press secretary, and Belousov, who is the Economics Minister and who is being talked of as Nabiullina’s successor as Putin’s chief economic adviser, have both spoken up for him. After some suggestions that he might resign, his election to Sberbank’s supervisory board has been confirmed and he remains the Rector of the New Economics School. All of this suggests that he is not in any serious trouble.

    3. Guriev himself has said that he has done nothing wrong. He has not however said (at least so far as I know) that the investigation is unwarranted. He has also pointedly commended Putin and Medvedev for not interfering in the investigation. That too seems to suggest that he does not think the investigation is unwarranted.

    4. Lastly, Guriev has also said that he does not want to be put in a position of being asked to give evidence against others. This more than anything suggests that the investigation is directed not at Guriev but at someone else.

    All of this suggests to me that Guriev is indeed being interviewed as a witness and that the reason he has taken what we might call an extended leave of absence (which however, given his apparently long pre planned lecture at Sciences Po, was clearly only in part prompted by his concerns about the investigation) is so that he does not have to give evidence against the person or persons who are the true subject of the investigation either because this person or persons are his friends or because Guriev finds the idea of giving evidence against this person or persons embarrassing. The fact that Guriev has not said that the investigation is unwarranted at least opens up the possibility that there is a genuine issue to be investigated in which case Guriev’s departure in order to avoid giving evidence may mean that he really does have some evidence about it. Since a refusal to cooperate with a police investigation can be construed as obstruction of justice (which is a criminal offence) that may be sufficient to explain his comments about his fearing arrest.

    All of this is very speculative and may turn out to be wrong. We shall see. However my guess is we will learn more about this investigation soon and that we will be seeing Guriev back in Russia before long.