U.S. cables lift mask on Putin's 'corrupt autocracy'

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Dec. 2, 2010, 5:06 p.m. | Russia and former Soviet Union — by Reuters


MOSCOW, Dec. 2 (Reuters) - Vladimir Putin rules Russia by allowing a venal elite of corrupt officials and crooked spies to siphon off cash from the world's biggest energy producer, according to a picture painted by leaked U.S. diplomatic cables. The stars of the U.S. Foreign Service cast "alpha-dog" Putin as Russia's paramount leader, presiding over a system where greed and oil money decide everything. Laws mean nothing.

U.S. diplomats speculate about Putin's personal wealth and repeat Moscow rumours that the former KGB spy has assets abroad and links to Russia's lucrative oil export trade.

Putin has denied amassing a vast fortune while president and has dismissed speculation about his personal wealth as snot smeared over paper.

His spokesman on Thursday told Reuters the "simply ridiculous" claims in the U.S. diplomatic cables were based on unverified rumour.

"These are simply rumours, with neither facts nor arguments. Simply nothing," Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said by telephone. "But if we suppose that these are genuine telegrams, then one could only wonder that diplomats write such rubbish."

The U.S. cables present Russia as a "corrupt autocracy" where money has replaced Communism as the driving ideology for the elite since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union.

"People are paying bribes all the way to the top," U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Beyrle paraphrased an unidentified source as saying in February 2010, in one of the cables published on the website WikiLeaks..

The source, whose name was obscured in the documents, described a system in which the security services, police and local politicians collected bribes in a well organised protection racket that reached the top levels of the Kremlin.

"They need money to get to the top, but once they are there, their positions become quite lucrative money making opportunities," Beyrle's cable said.


Western executives say the biggest barriers for business in Russia are alarming levels of official corruption, mounds of red tape and the arbitrary rule of law.

Corruption, which plagued tsars and communist general secretaries for centuries, blossomed as the Soviet Union collapsed and is now a way of life for many Russians, from small bribes paid to traffic police to multi-million dollar kickbacks for officials who hold sway over the $1.2 trillion economy.

But never before have U.S. assessments of Russia's giant system of kick-backs been made so public at such a sensitive time, just when President Barack Obama is battling to repair better ties with the Kremlin.

U.S. Ambassador Beyrle, in a cable to Washington from November 2008, repeated rumours that Putin was linked with Swiss based trader Gunvor.

"The company is rumoured to be one of Putin's sources of undisclosed wealth," Beyrle wrote, citing oil traders. In another cable of the same period, he said Putin was rumoured to be an owner of Gunvor, though he gave no hard facts to back up the claim.

When asked about this statement, Putin spokesman Peskov said: "This is a completely stupid claim without any support. These rumours have been aired repeatedly but they have been repeatedly denied. It is rather ridiculous."

A Gunvor spokesman said: "It is just repeating old rumours. They are over two years old and the questions of things like who owns Gunvor are now a matter of public record."

The company has previously said its two main shareholders were its founders, Gennady Timchenko and Torbjorn Tornqvist, and that a small stake belongs to an employee trust.

Timchenko has repeatedly denied media speculation he was a close friend of Putin.

When asked for comment on the documents, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow declined but said it might make a statement later. It was not possible to verify if the documents were genuine.

Undersecretary of State William Burns -- a former ambassador to Moscow who is quoted in some of the leaked cables -- has said the disclosures were a "despicable breach of trust" that would hurt U.S. diplomacy.
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Anonymous Dec. 2, 2010, 5:21 p.m.    

Putin's way of doing things is no better than the U.S. EVERYONE is on the take.

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Anonymous Dec. 3, 2010, 1:17 a.m.    

You mean I can just bribe the IRS instead of paying taxes? This is great news!

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Anonymous Dec. 2, 2010, 6:23 p.m.    

&quot;U.S. cables lift mask on Putin's 'corrupt autocracy'&quot;

Translation : Pot calls the kettle black.

Les some forget how fuhrer Bush got &quot;elected&quot; HA HA HA, gasp, HO HO HO :D

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Anonymous Dec. 2, 2010, 7:34 p.m.    

What goes around... comes around.

It is nice to see Russians being ripped off for money rather than the millions in deaths by Lenin/Stalin.

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Anonymous Dec. 2, 2010, 8:18 p.m.    

Hopefully the Russian people will start to wake up about how they are getting robbed.

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Anonymous Dec. 2, 2010, 8:37 p.m.    

Putin's Russia is a sesspool of corruption and graft...from top to bottom. Putin...despite his awkward a man constantly on the take from his corrupt oligarch friends.

Russia's corruptness and backwardness makes the USA look like a

benevolent Disneyland!

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Anonymous Dec. 2, 2010, 9:43 p.m.    

Yanukovych is a Putin in training. He's just not as successful.

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Anonymous Dec. 2, 2010, 10:07 p.m.    

This story says it all. These leaked documents are the source of 2 year old rumors. So, in other words, they are old news.

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Anonymous Dec. 2, 2010, 10:54 p.m.    

&gt;U.S. cables lift mask on Putin's 'corrupt autocracy'&lt;

Why won't the same diplomats tell us about their own wealth and what happened to the money in the latest &quot;Taliban&quot; blander where a huge sum of money was given to some &quot;impersonator&quot;. Yeah......we believe it......we were born yesterday. Or may be the curious diplomats want to talk tete-a-tete to the lords in this video:;feature=player_embedded#!

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Anonymous Dec. 2, 2010, 11 p.m.    

@Guest, Guest | Today at 20:37

We'll look at your Disneyland when your honest leadership tells you the news about your pensions or 401K plans. Or when you learn that the US has no gold in its reserves. We'll laugh together then.

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Anonymous Dec. 2, 2010, 11:13 p.m.    

If this is true, it's the same story since the creation of the world, which is to the victors go the spoils. It's the same think in the USA with some variation and the exception that it's kept more well hidden. Just look at all the wealth the Clinton's have amased just a few years after having to set up a &quot;Clinton legal defense fund&quot; in order to bail out Bill after BJ gate.

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Anonymous Dec. 3, 2010, 5:36 a.m.    

Wrong. The Clintons would need to set up a non-profit organization and then report each year income and pay taxes, etc. I can guarantee you that any money he receives for public speaking is included as income on his yearly tax staement. If he failed to do this he would certainly be prosecuted. Good luck with your system of government &quot;Sovereign Democracy&quot;. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

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Anonymous Dec. 3, 2010, 7:52 a.m.    

Tell this tale to the US banksters who own the US Congress. The USSA Congress give away hundreds of billions US taxpayer money &quot;no question ask&quot; to &quot;bail out&quot; the very some US thieves who created the Global Recession, so the very same banksters can screw the illiterate US sheeple even harder and deeper, heh, heh, heh :D

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Anonymous Dec. 3, 2010, 7:57 a.m.    

What drives the US losers mad is Russia still possesses the third largest FOREX reserve in the world, while the BROKE &amp; SINKING US needs to beg COMMUNIST China for handouts in order to survive. No wonder jealousy to Putin is expressed by the powerless US plutocracy, heh, heh, heh :D

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Anonymous Dec. 5, 2010, 6:57 a.m.    

Reports of Wikileaks have stated what everybody has known for years...

mafia = putin = kremlin = russian corrupt state ... master of Ukraine's servants = Profffesssorr yanukonvikt = Donetz = mafia

russian goverment and mafia are one and the same - you can't differentiate between the two. Where the government dare not tread in public, the mafia is given the task to do the dirty work.

Amazing to see putin squirming of USA TV trying to deny the truth. putin is good at twisting the truths, but them the kremlin has centuries of practice at lying and changing history to make themselves feel better.

If putin is not the top Mafioso boss, it will be interesting to see in the long term who is actually running the show (I know for one thing it ain't little iddy biddy medvedev).

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Anonymous Dec. 8, 2010, 6:37 p.m.    

Exposing the truth that fuhrer Bush was elected in most undemocratic manner drives the nazi hohol diaspora real mad, heh, heh, heh :D

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