A Bird's-Eye View of Russian Corruption

Navalny's new interactive map, "One Flew Over the State Official’s Nest," 27 November 2013, screenshot.

Navalny's new interactive map, “One Flew Over the State Official’s Nest,” 27 November 2013, screenshot.

Blogger and anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny has launched a new attack against five prominent Russian politicians, accusing them bribe-taking and failing to declare vast property holdings that include opulent mansions located outside Moscow. In a long post [ru] on LiveJournal, published November 27, 2013, Navalny explained how Nikolai Ashlapov, Igor Rudensky, Sergei Neverov, Sergei Prikhodko, and Vyacheslav Volodin (all members of United Russia or high ranking members of the federal government) underreport their wealth by registering pieces of their assets under the names of relatives and a co-operative society.

In addition to his blog post detailing the politicians’ extravagant homes, Navalny also unveiled a new website [ru] created through his civic organization, the Foundation Against Corruption, where readers can browse an interactive map, titled “One Flew Over the State Official’s Nest.” Clicking on any of the five mansions depicted displays individual statistics about the properties, explaining their sizes in relative terms. (For instance, Neverov’s land is equal to nine ice hockey rinks; Volodin’s acreage is roughly three soccer fields; and so on.)

Pro-Kremlin blogger and youth activist Kristina Potupchik was quick to respond to Navalny’s accusations. In a LiveJournal post [ru], Potupchik argued that Volodin’s asset declarations make it clear that he is wealthy enough to afford the property identified in Navalny’s investigation. She also charges Navalny with hypocrisy, claiming that he wages a campaign against wealthy Russians, while protecting his own well-off allies, like former Alfa Group portfolio director Vladimir Ashurkov and economist Sergei Guriev.

И резать их Навальный почему-то не собирается. Блогер в этой ситуации сильно напоминает Уильяма Браудера, который обогатился в России на беспредельной приватизации 90-х, а когда лавочку прикрыли, завопил о коррупционном правительстве.

But Navalny isn’t about to turn on them [Ashurkov and Guriev]. In this respect, the blogger [Navalny] strongly reminds me of William Browder, who got rich in Russia on the wild privatizations of the 1990s, and—when the shop closed up—started bawling about government corruption.

Vyacheslav Volodin, 23 May 2012, Kremlin Press Service.

Journalist Ekaterina Vinokurova noted [ru] on Facebook that Russia’s news media was ignoring Navalny’s revelations, despite the fact that “his blog post is the topic of the day among the top political circles.” In an article [ru] for Znak.com, Vinokurova quoted an anonymous Kremlin source, who defended the transparency of Volodin’s assets, albeit in an apparently ironic tone.

Later in the day, Gazeta.ru reported [ru] that Russia is finally home to a political party called “the People’s Alliance”—the name of the party Navalny has failed twice already to register. The new People’s Alliance party, however, doesn’t belong to Navalny, but to a small party formerly known as “Mother Country” (Родная страна). This group is the brainchild of political strategist Andrei Bogdanov, who is responsible for engineering several spoiler political parties with platforms and even names designed to confuse voters and suppress electoral support for the opposition.

On Twitter, Navalny joked [ru] that the renaming maneuver was Volodin’s swift revenge for the “One Flew Over” revelations about the mansion outside Moscow:

As I understand it, this is Volodin’s answer to the anti-corruption foundation’s “dacha discovery.”

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