Friday, June 13, 2014

Russian Business Leaders who Joined Alexei Navalny's Anti-Corruption Drive Face Now Face Arrest

On Wednesday, the Russian news agency RIA-Novosti  announced that Konstantin Yankauskas, a this earlier post, the fight against corruption was the principal plank in Navalny’s campaign.
deputy of the Moscow city council, had been placed under house arrest. At the same time, the agency suggested that the arrests of two businessmen, Vladimir Ashurkov and Nikolai Lyaskin, were immanent. All of them are active in the anti-corruption campaign led by blogger and political activist Aleksey Navalny, and all are charged with embezzling funds from Navalny’s 2013 campaign for Mayor of Moscow—an intentionally vicious accusation, since, as I detailed in

Ashurkov’s name will be familiar to readers who remember an interview with him that I posted here two years ago. For those who came in late or have forgotten the details, Ashurkov was a star student in the American business school where I taught in Moscow in the 1990s and later earned an MBA at Wharton. After returning to Russia, his career blossomed, and he ended up as a top asset manager at Alfa Group, a Moscow investment powerhouse run by Mikhail Fridman, one of Russia’s richest men.

A few years ago, Navalny’s anti-corruption campaign caught Ashurkov’s attention. Although he had not previously been active in politics, he began to work with Navalny on corporate governance cases. His boss, Fridman, was at first OK with that, as long as it was done in his spare time. However, the political situation in Russia became more tense during Vladimir Putin’s campaign for a third term as president. As it did so, Fridman’s attitude changed. He told Ashurkov that he would either have to drop his work with Navalny or quit his job. As Fridman later explained in a radio interview,
When we parted ways, he [Ashurkov] had the right to a choice: Either not engage in politics or leave the business. He decided for himself to go the political route. . .  We live in Russia, and there is no question that in our Russian conditions, involvement in such an active political life is, as a general rule, not altogether appropriate for business.
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