The Unity for Russia's Sake foundation has held a panel discussion, "State and Business: The Momentum of Repentance," following the publication of the letter "Crisis of Liberalism in Russia," attributed to the embattled oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The man is under investigation on embezzlement and tax evasion charges, and has been in pre-trial detention since October of last year.
Igor Bunin, a prominent spin doctor, said by bringing Khodorkovsky and other Yukos executives to justice, the Kremlin had made it clear to the big biz who calls the shots in this country. Other panelists, such as Gleb Pavlovsky, agreed that the Yukos case had put a full stop to the merger of the business and the political elites.
Business moguls will now be allowed to get involved in politics only at the regional level while advocacy of business interests in parliament will be limited to expert discussion of bills in their second and third readings. In the past, many of the draft laws, notably ones related to currency and banking reforms, were elaborated and pushed through by the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs.
Igor Jurgens, Vice President of the Union, acknowledged it was time oil and gas giants teamed up with small and medium-sized businesses so as not to irritate the public. "Rules will be tougher, so I don't think anyone will feel like taking up politics," he said.
According to analysts, the business community's growing loyalty to the government arises from the fear of being brought to justice, like it has happened to major Yukos shareholders.
The business community will be acting pragmatically, keeping in mind that the government is always ready to remind any conspicuous businessman of his past sins and cut him down to size, Yevgeny Yasin, of the Higher School of Economics, pointed out.