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By John Helmer, Moscow

The indictment of ex-minister Mikhail Abyzov is a clear signal; the arrest of former Khabarovsk Governor and ex-presidential representative Victor Ishayev is another

The system of high-level administrative protection, on which these two notoriously corrupt figures have relied for the past twenty years, has ceased protecting them. There is a legion to follow them; they no longer have the telephone number to call for early warning to quash investigations before they close in, or if they do, to escape in time to the US or London.  

When Abyzov recognizes he is doomed, he will start to testify against Anatoly Chubais and others.  When Alexei Kudrin, chairman of the Accounting Chamber, realizes his game is up, he will start sounding more like the accountant he was in St. Petersburg than the candidate for selection to the highest national office he has aspired to be.  Whether Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev will be replaced before the next State Duma election falls due in September 2021, or before the election campaign commences, he is going; none of his men will be left in power.   

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman announced after Abyzov’s arrest: “The President received the report [on the Abyzov case] in advance [of his arrest].” That is precisely what happened, not because Putin gave the order to commence the prosecution of Abyzov, but because Putin wants no one to realize he didn’t. Putin has lost the initiative; he cannot protect those who have counted on his protection for two decades.

The signals are also clear elsewhere – reinforcement of the Venezuela front; on the Syria front  termination of the Idlib agreement of September 2018 between Putin and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which Erdogan failed to fulfil.

These measures also indicate that the initiative has passed to the Stavka, the combined forces of the General Staff, the Defence Ministry, and the Security Council. According to the Kremlin,   on April 1  “Vladimir Putin congratulated the Turkish leader on the success of his party, the Party of Justice and Development, in the municipal elections in Turkey on March 31.” But Erdogan’s party had failed;  this was an April Fool’s telegramme. 

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