Friday, November 07, 2003

Forbes: Soros Moscow Premises Raided in Property Dispute

I wonder how many people will continue to argue that Putin is just applying a broom to a nest of gangsters, given this new development. Then again, the usual suspects might just call Soros a parasitical capitalist exploiter thoroughly deserving of "punishment" anyway.

One thing that is striking though - apart from being rich, Soros happens to share in common with Khodorkovsky, Berezovsky and Abramovich one other attribute that Russians have never been particularly fond of, and that is membership in that group that was once known by the euphemism of "rootless cosmopolitans." Why aren't any good old, Orthodox Russian boys being trifled with? Are we to believe that the only rich people who fall foul of Russian laws are the Jewish ones?

MOSCOW, Nov 7 (Reuters) - Men in battle-fatigues raided the Moscow city centre headquarters of billionaire benefactor George Soros taking away all its documents in the climax to a long- running commercial dispute, radio Ekho Moskvy said on Friday.

Yekaterina Geniyeva, president of Soros' Moscow-based Open Society Institute, told the radio station the attackers identified themselves as working for Sektor-1 company, which says it owns the building in the city centre.

"The most terrifying thing was that they took away all our documents. We do not know where," she said, adding that the foundation did not recognise Sektor-1's ownership rights over the building.

She said she did not think there was any direct link between the incident and the arrest of oil billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky, which some fear may herald a state crackdown on big business. But she said there might be "some connection". (emphasis added)

Miss Geniyeva's statements are hard to comprehend; if she doesn't think there's "any direct link", why bother stating that there might be "some connection"? It sounds to me like someone trying to stay on the good side of the Putin government while hinting to the world at large about the real state of affairs.

UPDATE: This BBC report has more details on the story. Particularly interesting is the following snippet:

On Tuesday [Soros] warned that Russia "may now be entering a phase of state capitalism, where all the owners of capital realise that they are dependent on the state".

His comments came in an interview with the weekly Moskovskiye Novosti, recently acquired by Mr Khodorkovsky.

He denounced the 25 October arrest of the oil tycoon as "persecution".

This gives me more confidence in stating that there is indeed a connection between this raid and Khodorkovsky's arrest. How fitting it is, given what I've said about Putin in the recent past, that he's now sending goons to shut down the offices of the Open Society Foundation, as an open society is precisely what the man seeks to prevent from emerging.