Why Gazprom corruption is bad for the world, not just Russia


On Thursday, a group of Russian investigative journalists published a series of articles about massive corruption at Gazprom, Russia’s biggest company and one of the world’s energy market leaders. Why should this matter to an international audience?

Because Gazprom is Putin’s miniature Russia. And because Gazprom is Putin’s main weapon in the war against the West – perhaps more important than missiles like the ones now hitting Ukraine, and certainly more effective. Let’s take a closer look.

It is commonly accepted that Gazprom is a public company acting in the interests of Russia. The state increased its share of the company to majority ownership under Putin, and now more than 50% of Gazprom’s shares are state-owned. In Russia at least, this was interpreted as a great success for both the president and the management of Gazprom.

When Russian propagandists use the phrase “Putin has brought Russia to its knees,” they mean in part the transformation of Gazprom into an international corporation fighting for Russian interests. However, as is always the case with propaganda, it is a lie.

Thanks to an investigation by independent media Proekt and the team of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, it has become clear that from the very beginning of Putin’s rule, Gazprom has been a source of personal wealth for Putin himself. same ; the head of the company, Alexei Miller, who worked as Putin’s secretary for many years; and a group of high-ranking intelligence officers.

The scale of expropriated state money is shocking. Gazprom money paid for many neo-baroque palaces and estates from the Black Sea to the remote mountainous region of Altai. But if only they were only palaces!

Investigative journalists have discovered that a vast network of shell companies owned by nominal owners (former security officers) controls significant Gazprom assets.

For example, the owner of a quarter of Gazprom’s biggest contractor – the one that built the Nord Stream gas pipelines – is a driver who worked for a retired Russian intelligence agent who spent much of his career in Syria. Their other major asset is a stake in Sogaz, a state insurer that has reportedly been used by Putin’s inner circle to control big business.

These men have been around for decades: they are the same proxies who participated in the expropriation of Yukos, formerly Russia’s largest oil company, which was seized from billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky in the early 2000s on Putin’s orders.

These senior officers – called “golden colonels” by the investigative team – serve their bosses, Putin and Miller. The Colonels own and operate the Sochi resort where Putin goes skiing and the Siberian Palace where the aging Russian leader takes rejuvenating deer blood baths. Even the company that raises deer for this purpose is owned by the same nominal owners.

All of the above demonstrates one thing: whenever you hear Gazprom’s threats against Western countries, remember that these are not ordinary citizens, it is Putin personally and his “golden colonels” who are threatening you.

Since the start of the war, Gazprom has demanded that Western countries pay for gas in rubles and has cut off deliveries to some European countries. Gazprom has waged gas wars against Ukraine at least four times in the past. It is Putin, Miller and the FSB officers who are using a public company to threaten the world.

The irony is that there are several thousand cities and towns in Russia where there is no natural gas supply. The average gasification level in the country – one of the coldest on the planet – is just over 70%, but in many areas it is only around 20%. Thousands of Altai residents who live near Putin’s and Miller’s luxury resorts are unable to heat their homes with gas. For these ordinary Russians, Putin and Miller are the same enemies as for the Ukrainian people.

Western countries should keep this in mind, especially when planning sanctions. None of the proxies profiled in our investigation have ever been mentioned as potential sanctions targets – despite the fact that some of them own businesses, and possibly real estate, in Europe.

Putin, Miller and their henchmen must answer not only for what they do in Ukraine, but also for what they stole from their own nation.


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