Sunday, June 16, 2024

Reform or risk turmoil: ex-Finance Min tells Putin


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MOSCOW: Vladimir Putin’s powerful ally, former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, said on Saturday that he shared Russian protesters’ concerns about a disputed election and offered to lead dialogue with the authorities to fend off revolutionary turmoil.

Putin, who has led Russia for 12 years as president and then prime minister, is facing the biggest protests of his rule after a Dec. 4 parliamentary election which thousands of Russians say was rigged and unfair.

In his remarks, Kudrin warned that dialogue with the authorities was essential to ensure calm, non-violent change and to avoid a ‘revolutionary’ turmoil. State news agency RIA reported that he would join a protest in Moscow on Saturday.

Such comments make Kudrin the most influential Putin ally yet to back the concerns of tens of thousands of Russians though his warning on turmoil may worry investors in the world’s biggest energy producer.

“I share your negative emotions in relation to the results of the parliamentary elections in our country,” Kudrin, who served for more than 11 years as Putin’s finance minister, said in a letter published on Kommersant newspaper’s website.

“I am ready to support the preliminary organisation of concrete dialogue between society and the authorities,” said Kudrin on the site.

Many Russians are calling for Putin to leave power. Kudrin, who was sacked by President Dmitry Medvedev in September, mentioned Putin only once in the letter, saying that Russia’s prime minister was ready for the March 4 presidential election to bring change to the system.

Kudrin’s influence is vast: in 1997 he helped Putin get his first job in the Kremlin and he is feted by investors for bringing fiscal stability to Russia after the crises of the 1990s.

Medvedev publicly demanded Kudrin resign in September after the finance minister said he would not work in a future government if Medvedev became prime minister in a planned job swap with Putin.

Kudrin, who appeared to be frustrated at not being offered the premiership, smiled at Medvedev and said he would have to check with Putin, a major humiliation for Medvedev.

In such circumstances, Kudrin has no option but to leave his job though Putin has repeatedly said since that he respects Kudrin and sees him as one of his team. (PTI)


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